UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Study of communication in joint forest management in India Chandran, Ajith


Joint Forest Management (JFM) - i.e. forests jointly managed by the Forest Department and local community - has been operative across all States of India for more than two decades now. Despite its successes in expanding to over one third of the forest area, challenges in managing the forest jointly exist between these two unequal partners. Apart from issues of governance, the lack of communication between them has been reason for many of the on-going conflicts and issues. The present study explores the communication mechanisms in current practices in JFM, their effectiveness and challenges. The perception of community and the Forest Department about communication challenges, emerging technology, and possible solutions are also explored. A model is developed to help practitioners and planners to assess communication situation and to design appropriate mechanisms. To study the communication challenges and their relation to power and technology, I surveyed three village communities, and interviewed a range of Forest Department officers from Gujarat. I also surveyed senior Indian Forest Service officers from 19 States to understand their perception of the communication challenges. This data helped me to develop a model to understand communication in a culturally embedded governance situation. Results of the study indicate the lack of adequate mechanisms to understand the governance-communication linkages with consequential silhouetted approaches that fail to consider the impacts and linkages. The proposed model suggests that communication in governance should be planned taking into account ‘skillholders’ from ‘civil experts’ and ‘conventional experts’ across a variety of stages and dimensions. While community depends on the Forest Department for information and legitimacy for its various activities, the Department’s approach has been haphazard and ambiguous leaving much improvement to be desired. Senior forest officers acknowledge the situation and suggest a number of solutions for improving communication, which ranges from improved relationships to delivery mechanism. The research suggests that there is too much focus on certain areas for communication, such as policy implementation, without adequate emphasis on the process of policy making, leading to lack of clarity on a number of processes and procedures.

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