Equity in community -based sustainable development: A case study in western India
While community-based natural resource management projects have acquired increasing importance in the last decade, the notion of ‘community’ that is implicit in them has been subject to critique on a number of grounds. It is this that forms the starting point for my dissertation.
This dissertation starts by discussing the diverse forms that ‘the community’ takes in three different water projects in the state of Maharashtra in western India. For instance, the community could be either an administrative unit or an ecological unit or an irrigation unit, and each of these has different equity and sustainability implications. The three cases also differ in the kind of internal characteristics they possess and how these contribute to decentralized sustainable development. Furthermore, while reified notions of the community serve a strategic purpose in one water project, in general, utopian notions of communities could lead to lack of acknowledgement of the interaction between the community and other institutions such as markets, with the result that an important arena of influencing equity is lost.
Secondly, a study of three kinds of equities within the three communities—equities in rule content, process of rule-making and outcomes, reveals that the redistributive potential of water is realized only to a limited extent. The different equities are inter-related and depend on a variety of factors such as ideological motivation of the actors, the kind of water source, the prior internal organization present, the legal validity of the institutional arrangements and the nature of the leadership. Equity in content is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for equity in outcome. But equity in rule-making is the most critical—it is needed for implementation, to ensure continued equity in content and outcome, and to provide flexibility to use unexpected opportunities for changes in equity.
Thirdly, I discuss the role that the state can play in further facilitating community-based sustainable development efforts. For instance, the state can use legislation for a clearer constitution of the unit of the community, as well as facilitate equity by influencing the decision-making rules that associations involved in water projects follow.