Academic journal article The Geographical Review

Sustainability through an Alternative Property-Rights Regime for Bangladesh's Mangrove Forest

Academic journal article The Geographical Review

Sustainability through an Alternative Property-Rights Regime for Bangladesh's Mangrove Forest

Article excerpt

It is estimated that more than 50,000 square kilometers of mangrove forest--or nearly one-quarter of its original, global cover--has been lost due to human activity. This rate is three to five times higher than overall forest losses (Spalding, Kainuma, and Coolins 2010). Continuous deterioration of the Sundarbans, the great mangrove forest spanning Bangladesh and India, has become a serious threat to both its ecosystem and economic outputs (Iftekhar and Saenger 2008; Kabir and Hossain 2008; Rahman, Rahman, and Islam 2010). Biophysical, environmental, and economic indicators provide signs of rapid deterioration of this forest's assets and resources. One study noted a 50 percent reduction of tree density in the last twenty years (Kabir and Hossain 2008). This is supported by Choudhury and Hossain (2011), who estimated an annual 1 percent depletion of forest stock. The deterioration is primarily a result of unsustainable usage by large forest-dependent communities and an inefficient, top-down management system of state property rights by the Department of Forest (Roy, Alam, and Gow 2012).

To address this degradation, many developing countries have adopted co-management (Behera and Engel 2006; Behera 2009; Adhikari and Goldey 2010). At least 22 percent of forest areas in developing countries are now owned or managed by local communities (Molnar, Scherr, and Khare 2004). Co-management is designed to secure local economic livelihoods and to alleviate poverty. In India and Nepal, co-management methods like joint forest management and community forestry, were adopted to empower and secure the livelihood security of local impoverished communities (Bhattacharya, Pradhan, and Yadav 2010).

To achieve sustainability in resource management, empowerment of local people is necessary. In this arrangement, top-down bureaucratic institutions relinquish autonomy and some power to local community groups. Mitchell (2002) identified this partnership as the best form of collaboration, because decisions are determined through consensus. Hence, the theory of co-management has emerged in the last two decades as a potential alternative solution to the problem of unsustainable environmental management (Plummer and Fennell 2007). In their conceptual framework of co-management, Plummer and Fitzgibbon (2004a) outline the nonexclusive characteristics, which provide the setting for successful co-management. Plummer and Fitzgibbon (2004b) provide a multidimensional model of cooperative environmental management in a continuum from government to community-based management through interrelated dimensions of power sharing, representation, and processes.

Co-management is successful where there is a balance among the parties to the agreement as to how power is allocated and shared (Carlsson and Berkes 2005). Power sharing is ranked highly as an essential characteristic of co-management (Roy and Alam 2012).

However, in over one-half of the Indian and Nepalese communities where co-management has been implemented, regular and illegal extraction of forest resources occurs (Shova and Hubacek 2011). Co-management in these cases has failed to solve the problems of high population pressure and the livelihood demands of local communities in a sustainable way.

Co-management regimes often suffer from inappropriate conflict-resolution mechanisms, fragile institutional arrangements, inefficient accountability mechanisms, and poor collaboration between forest departments and local communities (Bhattacharya, Pradhan, and Yadav 2010). Co-management in these cases has failed to result in sustainable management of forests.

Co-management in some cases has enhanced conflict between local communities and the state. This conflict commonly results in overexploitation as traditional forest resource-management systems turns into open-access systems because of inadequate co-management structures (Caviglia-Harris, Kahn, and Green 2003). …

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