Institute for Social and Economic Change

Working Paper: 487

Local Government and Decentralized Natural
Resource Management

Mahima Upadhyay



The interaction processes of natural resource degradation - climate change - persistent poverty and unsustainable development are more pronounced in poorer countries like India where a majority of the population is dependent on natural resources. Agriculture underpins Indian livelihoods, with land-water-forest resources determining productivity and sustainability to a great extent. In the past few decades, a sharp decrease in the quality of these resources is witnessed. Decentralization is being practiced globally as a potential institutional innovation for solving resource management issues involving community, line departments, NGOs and local governments at local level; yet, the community appears at the forefront in the field and in literature; local governments’ potential is not explored much despite its statutory status as a local body for managing local affairs including natural resource management (NRM). Based on secondary data sources, this paper attempts to explore this role. Theoretical discourses, policy practices and ground evidences are referred for the exploration where the state of Madhya Pradesh, India, is taken as a case to discuss policy practices and ground evidences. The paper suggests that amid a polycentric decentralized structure, many NRM functions are devolved to local governments. However, the devolution is marked by some in-built flaws and local governments also do not seem to play their part to an optimum level.

Working Papers