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Reference: J.E.M. Arnold and W.C. Stewart, (1991). Common property resource management in India.Citable link to this page:


Common property resource management in India Subtitle: Tropical forestry papers no.24

Abstract: This study reviews the state-of-knowledge regarding common property resource (CPR) management in India, based on published and unpublished sources and discussions with researchers in this field in India. CPR usage occurs on lands under a variety of customary and formal tenure arrangements. These lands include panchayat and revenue lands, reserved and unreserved forest lands, and private agricultural land under seasonal fallow. There may be multiple use, for different products or by different groups, or at different times of the year. During the colonial and post independence periods, the uncultivated lands of India which have been used as CPRs have been progressively reduced, as they have been brought under government control or have been privatized. In the last forty years many traditional forms ofCPR management have weakened or collapsed owing to increasing population pressure, greater commercialization, certain public policies, technological change and environmental pressure. The importance of the remaining CPRs in terms of sustainability is basically twofold. First, they fill crucial gaps in the resource and income flows from other resources; providing complementary inputs into agricultural systems often critical to their continued functioning. Second, they are often a major source of support for the poor, who are particularly heavily dependent on CPRs, generally lack access to the resources necessary to develop privatized common land, and benefit considerably from the employment created by CPR management activities. The strong thrust towards bringing use of common resources under private or government control has often been based on a thesis which confuses degradation due to unregulated use under an open access situation for breakdown in CPR management arrangements. This misunderstanding has been compounded by a tendency to overlook reasons why the alternatives of private or state control may themselves not be sustainable or efficient, and the bias that can exist in property legislation in favour of private property. The pressures on remaining CPRs will undoubtedly further erode many existing CPR management practices and institutions. Nevertheless, examination of surviving indigenous regimes, and of promising new ones, has identified a number of features which appear to define conditions for viable and sustainable CPR management in appropriate circumstances. These centre round control and management by the user group, securing the rights of the latter to use of the resource, and defence of those rights against intrusion, and investment in outputs that users value and can manage. It is notable that some recent interventions which have been less successful in inducing sustainable communal management, such as most Social Forestry woodlot programmes, have not been consistent with these conditions.

Publication status:PublishedVersion:Publisher's versionNotes:This document has been digitised by the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford as part of the Oxford Digital Library for Forestry (ODLF) project. Digitisation of this document has been made possible through the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The original contents of this document remain the copyright of the University of Oxford (

Bibliographic Details

Publisher: Oxford Forestry Institute, University of Oxford

Issue Date: 1991Identifiers

Urn: uuid:2f98de2a-6442-48ad-aeda-0a78d9276815

Isbn: 085074119X

Issn: 0141-9668 Item Description

Type: Working paper;

Language: eng

Version: Publisher's versionKeywords: Oxford Forestry Institute OFISubjects: Forests and forestry Plant sciences Tiny URL: ftry:10223


Autor: J.E.M. Arnold - institutionUniversity of Oxford facultyOxford Forestry Institute, Department of Plant Sciences - - - W.C. Stewart



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