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Environ Manage. 2013 Mar;51(3):571-85. doi: 10.1007/s00267-012-0008-2. Epub 2013 Jan 10.

Community responses to government defunding of watershed projects: a comparative study in India and the USA.

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School of Environment and Natural Resources, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA.


When central governments decentralize natural resource management (NRM), they often retain an interest in the local efforts and provide funding for them. Such outside investments can serve an important role in moving community-based efforts forward. At the same time, they can represent risks to the community if government resources are not stable over time. Our focus in this article is on the effects of withdrawal of government resources from community-based NRM. A critical question is how to build institutional capacity to carry on when the government funding runs out. This study compares institutional survival and coping strategies used by community-based project organizations in two different contexts, India and the United States. Despite higher links to livelihoods, community participation, and private benefits, efforts in the Indian cases exhibited lower survival rates than did those in the U.S. cases. Successful coping strategies in the U.S. context often involved tapping into existing institutions and resources. In the Indian context, successful coping strategies often involved building broad community support for the projects and creatively finding additional funding sources. On the other hand, the lack of local community interest, due to the top-down development approach and sometimes narrow benefit distribution, often challenged organizational survival and project maintenance.

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