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Environmental and Natural Resources

I. Retrospect

Environmental and Natural Resource Economics was identified as a separate theme of research at IEG only towards the later part of the decade of the nineteen-eighties. However, a substantial part of IEG’s work in the early eighties focused on non-renewable resources such as coal, iron ore, petroleum and oil. Irrigation and water management, solar, biogas and renewable energy technologies also claimed the attention of the researchers. While this work can now be seen as the precursor of later developments under the theme, it was undertaken in the context of planning and agricultural development, The nineteen- eighties witnessed the emergence of two concurrent trends: interest in forest related issues such as the wood fuel crisis and in participatory and decentralised planning processes. Simultaneously, industrial pollution, its abatement and collective action in different areas of environment management were also studied. Research on these aspects led to more specialised and in-depth studies in the following areas in the nineties:

• Valuation and natural resource accounting, in particular application of new techniques such as contingent valuation to primary data sets,
• Analysis of pollution abatement, related costs and institutional arrangements,
• Ecological economic modeling ,
• Environment and development ,
• Sustainable development: indicators, operationalisation and sectoral analysis,
• Population and environment interactions,
• Gender inequality, environment and development,
• Participatory natural resource management.

While resource management and its technological and institutional aspects continue to attract faculty attention and interest, sociological aspects of environmental management and the areas of trade and environment are now also coming into the ambit of research interest under this theme at the IEG.

II. Medium-term Research Agenda: 2006-2011

The medium-term agenda for work under this theme is envisaged both as a continuation of work undertaken in the near past and as a venturing into select new areas of faculty interest. The following areas and themes of work are identified

1. Urban Eco-systems and environmental management

In the medium term, one sees the emergence of urban environmental management as an important area of work. This will constitute in part a continuation of work on drinking water and air pollution. A new facet of this work on urban environments is its geographic widening to cover countries in South Asia other than India. Further, from the conceptual viewpoint, it is proposed to analyse urban environments from an eco-system perspective.

2. Corporate Social Responsibility and the Environment

The effect of pollution control activities on industrial performance and the impact of environmental regulation on technological change in industry is another proposed area of work. This falls within the theme of corporate environmental management. What are the challenges facing the corporate sector in a situation of increased consumer awareness of environmental issues and how does industry respond to them? These are significant issues for research in a globalising era when Indian consumers’ preferences can demand compliance with international environmental norms and standards. Exporting concerns shall anyway have to abide by environmental standards. What shall be the effect on industry’s competitiveness and its profitability? Further, what will be the corporate sector’s response? In this important research area the IEG can play a leading role.

3. Common Pool Resources and Eco-system Services

Effective response strategy to management of ecosystems like Payment for Ecosystem services is going to be one of the major focus areas in research priority at IEG in the future.

Further, common pool resources as the source of eco-system services constitutes another fruitful area of future work. This approach takes forward the work on valuation and accounting of ecosystem services to take into account trade-offs between different kinds of services such as provisioning, regulating and enriching provided by eco-systems. However, this involves carrying forward in a more sustained fashion, the inter-disciplinary approach to work, which has so far been initiated in a limited way through ongoing projects. Undertaking research in trans-boundary management of resources between countries in South Asia could be another possible extension of this dimension.

4. Environmental Governance and Civil Society

Environmental governance and the study of diverse formal and informal institutions enabling this governance underlies several aspects of planned and ongoing work. One faculty member explores “environmentalism” as a specific form of social change that results in particular and novel forms of appropriation of resources by interest groups. The conceptual and discursive aspects of environmentalism, the responses of civil society organizations, and the agency of people whose livelihoods are displaced under the agenda of environmentalism are areas of interest. Another colleague is exploring how environmental outcomes might be a result of differential bargaining power between people situated in different socio-economic and environmental contexts.

Different kinds of inequality that permeate social structures (such as class, caste, gender, etc.) can also have an impact on the processes which determine the trade-offs between services provided by the environment and the value that is placed on them. This has been a recurring theme in the work of IEG and shall continue to be so.

Additional new areas into which IEG researchers could venture, given appropriate and extended funding support are: climate change and its impacts, issues at the interface of Law and Economics and Global Environmental governance

Current IEG faculty and researchers working on this theme:-

Faculty Publication details under this theme Full CV
Agarwal, Bina Publication details under this theme Full CV
Dasgupta, Purnamita Publication details under this theme Full CV
Dayal, Vikram Publication details under this theme Full CV
Ghosh, Nilabja Publication details under this theme Full CV


Environment Studies (1994 - 2007)

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