REDD+ and local forest management in India

  • Sumana Datta

Student thesis: Phd


Reducing deforestation and degradation (REDD+) under the rubric of payment for ecosystem services (PES) is being promoted as the most cost-effective mechanism for reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. This process of commodifying forest services will redefine the rhetoric of decentralised forest governance that has evolved in developing countries over the last two decades. This thesis uses ethnographic case studies in two forest villages in West Bengal state in India, along with 294 household surveys and 76 interviews, to examine the impending changes in socio-economic and political arenas with the adoption of a market mechanism like REDD+. I undertook a pilot study for one month in October 2009, which was followed by my main field work in two phases: February to July 2010 and November 2010 to February 2011. First, the analysis of livelihood dependence of forests dwellers shows unequal extraction of forest products by various wealth classes under the current socio-economic and political structures of village societies. Rich and medium class families with their higher assets were higher net users of forests, while poor households had a critical dependence on forests for their daily survival. Second, I examine the impact of livelihood dependence on forests. A majority of key informants did not see the current extraction of forest products, for example, for meeting local subsistence and commercial needs as major detriments to forest and carbon conservation. However, I argue that a number of legal provisions and official guidelines could potentially impose restrictions on the ongoing forest use pattern as a result of REDD+. Third, by comparing the functioning of the village council (with a special focus on the implementation of India's National Employment Guarantee Scheme) with forest protection committees, I reflect upon the limitations in the decentralised forest management that emerge from the institutional design of the programme. I show that the decentralised forest governance suffers from lack of accountability and transparency over the control of forests by the Forest Department. Finally, this thesis suggests that the institutional design for REDD+ at the national level needs to be based on the democratic partnership of local institutions and the state.
Date of Award31 Dec 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorDaniel Brockington (Supervisor) & Philip Woodhouse (Supervisor)


  • REDD+
  • PES
  • Governance
  • Neoliberalisation of nature

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