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India has rich traditions of nature conservation as well as a vigorous official program of protection of nature reserves developed over the last 40 years. However, the official program suffers from total reliance on authoritarian management arrangements in which decisions are made centrally and coercion is used to implement them. At the same time, the state apparatus organizes subsidized resource flows to the urban-industrial-intensive agricultural complex which promote inefficient, non-sustainable resource-use patterns that are inimical to conservation of biodiversity. These processes are illustrated within the concrete setting of the district of Uttara Kannada in southern India. It is suggested that the interests of conservation would be served far better by an approach that withdraws the subsidies to the elite so that a much more efficient, sustainable and equitable pattern of resource use, compatible with conservation of biodiversity, can be instituted. In conjunction with this, the larger society should involve local people in working out detailed plants for conservation of biodiversity and offer them adequate authority as well as appropriate financial incentives to implement these plans. The paper goes on to illustrate how such an approach may be implemented in the case of Uttara Kannada.
Ambio © 1992 Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences