PROPERTY RIGHTS AND SUSTAINABLE
CASE STUDY FROM HARYANA STATE, NORTH WEST
Rohit & Devesh
Rural Managers (In the Making)
• The state Haryana has traditionally played a central role in forest
management in post-colonial India.
• Large tracts of forests were nationalized
• with a view to promote soil and water conservation and
• maximize revenue from the sale of forest products.
• The June 1, 1990 Circular of the Government of India which laid
down norms for
• the involvement of village communities
• in management of degraded state forest lands was an acknowledgment
by the State
• of the need to encourage institutional innovations that would
• promote sustainable forest management practices.
Adaptation of Govt. Circular
• Haryana was the first state in India to bring into effect the
provisions of the June 1, 1990 Circular of the Government
• Many factors for adaptation
1. Nationalization of forests in the region in total disregard of
customary rules had created animosity between the Haryana
Forest Department (HFD) and village forest communities.
2. Forest degradation had reached alarming levels and was
responsible for accentuating soil erosion in the Shiwalik hills.
3. The state of Haryana had achieved positive results in its
initial experiments with community forestry prior to 1990.
The Initial Situation
• The initial impetus for community based forest management in
Haryana came from
• the failure of the Forest Department to halt the siltation of the Sukhna
lake in Chandigarh.
Chandigarh’s Sukhna lake was created in 1950 by building a dam
across the Sukhna Choe in the 1950's. By 1974 it was found that 60
percent of the lake’s storage capacity was filled with silt.
• A study conducted by the Central Soil and Water Conservation
Research and Training Institute (CSWCRTI) found that
• the hills behind the village of Sukhomajiri were highly degraded.
• Barely 5 percent of the slopes had any vegetative cover and the
sedimentation rate was as high as 900 tones per ha annually.
• The study undertaken by CSWCRTI identified
• the primary cause behind such high rates of resource degradation to be
uncontrolled grazing of cattle and encroachment of hill forests for
• With the aim of reversing resource degradation in the Sukhna
catchment, it was suggested that
• soil and conservation works be undertaken in the area.
• The treatment plan included the construction of check dams, silt
retention dams and afforestation.
• Local villagers who were hired by the Forest Department to
construct water harvesting structures destroyed the same
structures at night.
• They removed the stone edges of the dams to permit free
access of their cattle into the forest area.
• The wooden posts of the brushwood palisades were removed
for use as firewood.
• The attempts of the Forest Department to install four strand
barbed wire fences to restrict access to the forest also failed as
the villagers destroyed the fences at several points.
• The failure of technical measures forced officials of the Haryana
Forest Department to seek out other solutions to the
• Soon established that the solution to deteriorating forest
• lay in improving the socio-economic condition of the local
population in the region.
The Gujjars who predominated in the region were a group of
professional grazers. The average land holding size of households
in a village was about 0.5 ha.
• The backbone of the economy was subsistence agriculture which was
supplemented by livestock rearing.
• The high rates of silt deposition from the hills had rendered land unfit
The economic insecurity associated with declining agricultural productivity had
forced many villagers to clear hill slopes to carry out cultivation. While this
practice yielded little in terms of increasing agricultural production, it
The Process of institutional change
• The Haryana Forest Department addressed the institutional
• by attempting to replace an open access regime of mutual privilege
• no right into a common property regime of mutual right and duty.
• An integral component of this strategy was
• the creation of an elaborate structure of incentives.
• The HFD
• constructed Water harvesting dams in the hills and
• the rain water which collected in these structures
• was used to irrigate low lying agricultural fields.
• In response to the increased water availability from the dams,
• Water User’s Associations were formed
• Noticing that rates of natural regeneration had improved the
Forest Department decided that
• an institutional mechanism should be established to share the benefits of
increased forest productivity with village communities.
• A Joint Management Unit (JMU) was established
• with representatives from TERI and the Haryana Forest Department
• to deliberate on issues related to the management of the community
• State, Divisional and Range level Working Groups have been
• to decide on issues related to pricing of forest products and forest
Joint Management Unit
Hill Resource Management Societies (HRMS)
• The Water Users Association
• Renamed as HRMS,
• these institutions were granted annual leases for fodder grass.
• Annual leases for harvesting bhabbar grass (used in rope making) and bamboo
were also granted to the HRMS.
• The HRMS was also given
• the responsibility of repair and maintenance of water harvesting structures in the
vicinity of forest areas.
• It was also envisaged that the
• HRMS would serve as an institution to channelize benefits
• that are likely to accrue from the sale of timber from forest areas.
• The HRMS, therefore, became the
• focus of the Forest Department’s attempt
• to reduce the costs of protection and
• increase the productivity of forests in the Shiwalik hills of Haryana.
• A number of studies have pointed
• to an overall improvement in the ecological condition of the forests in the
Encouraged by the findings of these studies
• the Haryana Forest Department has expanded the Community forest
Presently, a total of 65 HRMS’s are actively engaged in the
management of approximately 1500 sq. kilometers of forest land
in the Shiwalik hills of Haryana.
• However, despite the overwhelming evidence of improvement in forest
condition in the areas managed by the HRMS, there has been a
dearth of research on the impact of changes in use and access
regulations on rural communities dependent on forest areas.
• To bridge this information gap a study was undertaken in the Yamuna
Nagar Forest Division of Haryana. Five villages with forests under
varying property regimes were selected for the study. One of the study
• a forest under an open-access regime (village A).
• The second village has a forest under community forestry programme (village
• the third has a forest under state management (village C),
• the fourth village has a forest that has been titled and completely sold (village
• the fifth village has a forest that is part titled and part sold (village E).
• The objective of the study
• was to ascertain the impact of changes in property rights regimes on
access to forest products and ecological condition of forests.
• Finally, a benefit-cost analysis was undertaken
• to identify the economic viability of forest protection strategies under
different rights regimes.
• The benefit-cost analysis was undertaken under
• four scenarios to ascertain the costs and associated benefits
• which accrue to rural communities from adopting different forest
• The study considered three parameters in determining the
effectiveness of a property rights regime.
1. Access to forest resources;
2. Forest condition and
3. Associated benefits and costs.
• The impact of a change in rights regime on access to forest
• In particular access conditions relating to fuel wood, fodder, bhabbar
grass and water were examined.
• In the village under the community forestry programme
• the findings of the household survey indicate that
• there has been a decline in access to forest resources in the wake of the
introduction of the programme.
• On the other hand, access to forest resources have shown a tendency to
increase or to remain constant in the village
• under regime which exhibits features of both private titling and open
access resource use (communal tenure).
• Examined the impact of a change in rights regime on forest
• Two issues were studied to ascertain the condition of the forest.
1. Standing volume of trees,
2. Girth classes of trees in the forest.
• The study indicates that
• compared to the forests under open access and state ownership, forest
condition under community forestry and communal tenure were satisfactory.
• Using the two parameters, it was established
• that the condition of the forest in the village under the community forestry
project was better than that of the forest under communal tenure.
• This finding corroborates the findings of earlier studies from
Haryana which point to an improvement in forest condition under
the community forest management programme.
Benefit Cost Analysis
• Based on the analysis of the first two factors
• of access to forest resources and forest condition,
• the forest under community forestry and that under communal tenure were relatively
• As a result a benefit-cost analysis was undertaken
• visualized four different scenarios.
1. dams built by the forest department;
2. dams built by the community;
3. no lease charged by the Forest Department and no dam;
4. Plantation cost borne by the community and rights to timber granted to the
• The results suggests that
• a regime which promotes both general access to and optimum production from
certain types of resources (e.g. bhabbar grass) while enjoining on the community the
• necessary to protect these resources from destruction produces optimal
social, economic and ecological outcomes.
The lessons learnt
• The findings of the case study reveal that community based
forest management initiatives like the one in Haryana, need not
always produce optimum results.
• Although the experiment has produced dramatic improvements
in ecological condition of forests, continuing research is required
to minimize the economic costs of community based forest
• The benefit-cost analysis indicates that the state has crucial role
to play in sustaining community based forest management
institution through creation of infrastructure like water harvesting
The lessons learnt
• Further, the study shows that when titling of forest land results in
an outright sale to individuals with no links to the community, the
potential for sustainable forest management can be undermined.
• However, when titling of forest land does not result in a complete
exclusion of non-owners from a benefit stream, sustainable
management practices may emerge.
• Therefore, reinforcing some form of communal tenure may
provide a viable alternative to community based forest
management regimes which in some cases entail higher social
and economic costs.