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Explaining the de facto open access of public property commons: Insights from the Indus Delta mangroves

Memon, Junaid Alam, Thapa, Gopal B.
Environmental science & policy 2016 v.66 pp. 151-159
developing countries, issues and policy, ownership, river deltas, Pakistan
Public property common pool resources in many developing countries are often portrayed as being in a dismal state, allegedly due to their governments’ inability to manage them sustainably. While this explanation may have some merit, it is certainly inadequate. Instead, we argue that public property commons degrade partially because governments, in their attempt to obtain an overall societal balance, sometime accord low priority to some resources and bestow their ownership to an agency that may lack the appropriate mandate. While for many governments, this tendency is deliberate, it results in a de jure public property commonly exhibiting de facto open-access status and creates a situation where anybody may benefit but nobody feels responsible for the conservation and management of such resources. Based on the policy and institutional analyses of mangrove management in the Indus Delta of Pakistan, we propose such a case for theoretical debate on the issue. We conclude that instead of packaging and allocating rights to a single entity, rights in complex CPRs may be defined and allocated separately to different entities to produce socially desired goods and services. No matter how complex it seems, such an arrangement is necessary to deal with the complexity inherent in various socio-ecological systems like mangroves.