The Terracotta Approach to environmental problems suggests that the fundamental issue underlying these problems is the ‘tragedy of the collective’–it is the resource that is collectively/publicly held that gives rise to the problem. [The tragedy of the collective is a more accurate term in my opinion than the commonly used ‘the tragedy of the commons.’]  The basic solution then is to change the resource ownership structure from collective to either community or individual ownership, and when that is not feasible than to put a price on the use of the resource.

Under the Terracotta Approach I have been advocating that our forests should be given to the tribals for management and this is the best way to address both the issues of forest and wildlife protection and conservation and of livelihoods for forest-dwelling communities.  That is, communitise the collectively owned forests and wildlife.  To get even a few people in a large audience to come this far has been a herculean challenge.

Imagine my surprise when at the recent Delhi ISPP (I, Society & Public Policy) Seminar, several participants thought that my arguments for communitisation didn’t go far enough–we should actually privatise forests and wildlife! The Indian youth has matured, has come to represent a wider spectrum of intellectual diversity. Hopefully the Indian policy makers won’t be too far behild!

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The opinions expressed in this essay are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of CCS.