Power asymmetries and institutions: landscape conservation in central India


This article argues for revisiting the institutional architecture of wildlife conservation in light of two recent trends: Increased popularity of landscape-level approaches and the recognition that conservation interventions must address longstanding questions of forest and land rights of local residents. The inquiry draws upon primary research conducted in Kanha National Park and Tiger Reserve, which is world renowned for its rich flora and fauna, but is also the site of a longstanding struggle over land rights of Adivasis, India’s indigenous people. The institutional landscape of contemporary wildlife conservation regimes, this article shows, is a product of the interlocking of socioeconomic inequalities and the dominant models of wildlife conservation. The analysis presented here follows a political economy of institutions approach, which underlines how the social, economic, and political contexts shape institutional outcomes. Findings from this analysis will inform the proposals for transformational institutional interventions aimed to meet the triple bottom line of social justice, broad-based economic development, and ecological stewardship.

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    For detailed information and archival sources about these cases, see, http://forestcaseindia.org/.

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    Similar gaps also exist vis-à-vis the state forests outside of protected areas. A 2003 MP Forestry Department report stated that 83 % of state forests had yet to fulfill the statutory guidelines (Prabhu 2005).

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    Interview, Project Coordinator, International NGO, Mandla, July 2005.

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    Field visit, village Chakampur, June 19, 2005.

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    Interview with Park Director, July 5, 2005.

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    Access to the data requires registering with the website http://wiienvis.nic.in/Database/trd_8222.aspx. Data on file with the author. Another circular that the MoEF issued in August 2010, showed the status of the buffer zone as “notification awaited” (MoEF 2010).

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    Personal interview, district collector, Mandla. July 4, 2005.

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    Personal Interview, Director, Project Tiger, Mandla. July 5, 2005.

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    Personal Interviews, Project Staff, Madhya Pradesh Rural Livelihoods Programs (MPRLP), Bhopal.

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    Ecodevelopment Committee Dinapur, June 18, 2005.

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    Focus Group Discussion: Village Naranpur, June 18, 2005.

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    Field visit, Ecodevelopment Committee Dinapur; Focus Group Discussion: Village Naranpur. June 18, 2005.

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    Focus Group Discussion, with Janakpur, Ecodevelopment Committee, June 18, 2005.

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    Personal Interview, Elected Representative, Village Chakampur, June 19, 2005.

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    Focus Group Discussion, with Panchayati Raj Representatives from Rakaner. June 17, 2005.

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    Personal Interview, Director, Kanha Tiger Reserve, July 5, 2005.

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    Discussion with the NGO Project Coordinator, July 2005.

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    Personal interview, Bhopal, July 11, 2005.


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The fieldwork in the summer of 2005 was conducted as part of a research project on environmental governance supported by Lead India. The author gratefully acknowledges the inputs from Jill Carr-Harris and the hospitality of rural residents and the elected representatives in Mandla.

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Correspondence to Prakash Kashwan.

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Kashwan, P. Power asymmetries and institutions: landscape conservation in central India. Reg Environ Change 16, 97–109 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-015-0925-8

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  • Landscape conservation
  • Institutions
  • Institutional change
  • Property rights
  • Political economy