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Copyright ©1999 by The Resilience Alliance*

The following is the established format for referencing this article:
Nagendra, H. 1999. Power corrupts - absolute power corrupts absolutely. Conservation Ecology 3(2): r1. [online] URL: http://www.consecol.org/vol3/iss2/resp1/

Response to Kai N. Lee 1999. "Appraising Adaptive Management"

Power Corrupts - Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely...

Harini Nagendra

Indian Institute of Science

Published: December 15, 1999

In several countries, notably the poorer tropical regions of the world, conflicts between users and stewards of resources are often severe. Each side takes increasingly rigid stands, until it seems impossible to resolve the situation without the use of force. Protected areas provide a good example of this type of implacability. For the users, the local inhabitants who are to be moved out, it is usually a desperate question of survival, which makes them understandably intractable. For the stewards, the goal is often protection and not conservation, although this is not what usually leads to their lack of flexibility. Instead, the power vested in them increases their "distance" from the users and blunts their sensitivity to the legitimate survival issues the users face, a fallout more of human psychology than of science. In such scenarios, the answer may lie in decentralizing the power vested in these institutions and handing over at least partial control to the users. The Joint Forest Management strategies adopted by the Indian Forest Department, with successful initial results, provide a case in point.

Although Dr. Lee has provided an extremely thoughtful and critical analysis of the philosophies underlying adaptive management in the article "Appraising adaptive management," situations such as these must still be addressed. The third point, which invites comment, states that "adaptive management appears to be unsuitable unless there is a government authority that monopolizes physical access to the resources being managed." I contend that, when highly unequal power structures are in operation, the converse is more often true.


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Lee, K. N. 1999. Appraising adaptive management. Conservation Ecology 3(2): 3. [online] URL: http://www.consecol.org/vol3/iss2/art3

Address of Correspondent:
Harini Nagendra
Centre for Ecological Sciences
Indian Institute of Science
Bangalore 560012
Phone: (91-80) 331 5453

*The copyright to this article passed from the Ecological Society of America to the Resilience Alliance on 1 January 2000.

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