Does Assignment of Individual Property Rights Improve Forest Conservation Outcomes?
Empirical Evidence from West Bengal, India
Keywords:Forest Rights Act, Individual Forest Rights, Forest Governance, Forest Conservation, West Bengal
The past few decades have seen significant changes in the governance of forests in India. The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Rights on Forest) Act (FRA), 2006, was a landmark act passed in the Indian Parliament to assign individual property rights over forest resources that have been de facto used by local communities. This paper examines whether the assignment of individual property rights results in positive outcomes for forest conservation using village-level forest patta (forest land title) and census data from Bankura district in West Bengal. Vegetation Continuous Fields data has been used to measure the change in forest cover from 2006 to 2012. The results show that the percentage of forest patta land in the village, distance to markets, the existence of pucca roads, and the presence of forest protection committees (FPCs) are negatively and significantly related to forest degradation, implying improvement in forest conservation outcomes. The presence of tribal people, a larger population, and higher literacy rate are positively associated with forest degradation, meaning that they have an undesirable impact on forest conservation outcomes...
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