ABSTRACT

Forest resources continue to form a significant part of many local people’s livelihoods in South Asia. However, livelihood linkages with forest land have widely been restricted or curtailed by state forest administrations (see Chapter 1). Thus, their resumption and protection is a central argument of the popular narrative, as Chapter 3 has indicated. If a substantial proportion of agrarian society relies upon forest land to a significant degree, and that reliance is compromised by the forest administration’s policies and practices, then the argument that they should be involved in the management of that forest land is persuasive. Second, if people can be shown to be able to use the forest in a sustainable way through collective action, the state forestry narrative has to counter this claim if it is to maintain its credibility. It would need to make the case that its policies have a more pressing goal (such as green cover, wildlife/biodiversity conservation, large-scale plantations, the promotion of commercial timber over other forest products) that should be prioritized ‘in the national interest’. Furthermore, it would need to demonstrate that forest policy is a zero-sum game in the sense that people’s participation in forest management is gained exactly to the extent that other goals of the forest administration are lost. However, if livelihood links between local people and the forest are not significant, and the severance of rights of access by the state or via assertion of private property rights has not led to injustice, hardship and poverty, then the argument that the state should manage the forest according to the ‘national interest’ is carried.