Institutional responses to development pressures: Resilience of social-ecological systems in Himachal Pradesh, India

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Marijn Meijering

Authors: K. Bingeman, F. Berkes, J. S. Gardner

Publication Year: 2004


Journal: International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology

Volume: 11

Issue: 1

Categories: Resilience


In the Kullu District, Himachal Pradesh, India, economic and urban growth, and diversification have increased pressure on forests and forest-based social-ecological systems. As in many Himalayan regions, livelihood sustainability is linked to forest resources, products and services. Recent development in the region, to which these systems may be vulnerable, brings into question environmental and livelihood sustainability. This paper examines the resilience of integrated systems of people and nature, or social-ecological systems, in the face of development pressures by evaluating a number of local and state-level institutional responses. Resilience, which describes the ability of the social-ecological systems to adapt to change by buffering shocks, improving self-organization and increasing capacity for learning, is an essential quality for sustainable development. Institutional responses which positively contribute to resilience and sustainability include the work of mahila mandals in forest management, adoption of Joint Forest Management (JFM) policies and practices, upholding rules, strengthening local institutions, establishing firewood depots and adopting alternative energy sources. Institutional failures brought about by the lack of rule enforcement and corruption erode resilience. The analysis of institutional responses helps to identify areas where capacity exists and areas in which capacity building is needed to produce resilient social-ecological systems and therefore, sustainable development.


Marijn Meijering