Scientific Publication

Collective Action, Property Rights, and Decentralization in Resource Use in India and Nepal


National governments in almost all developing countries have begun to decentralize policies and decision making related to development, public services, and the environment. Existing research on the subject has enhanced our understanding of the effects of decentralization and thereby has been an effective instrument in the advocacy of decentralization. But most analyses, especially where environmental resources are concerned, have been less attentive to the political coalitions that prompt decentralization and the role of property rights in facilitating the implementation of decentralized decision making. By comparing decentralization in four cases in South Asia—Forest Councils in Kumaon in India, Joint Forest Management in India, the Parks and People Program in Nepal's Terai, and Community Forestry legislation in Nepal—this article provides answers to two questions: When do governments decentralize environmental decision making? and Which types of property rights must be devolved if decentralized decision making is to be effective?