October 14, 2002
Awards and Honors
Rajan receives $185,000 grant from NSF for
study of environmental governance
S. Ravi Rajan, an assistant professor of environmental studies, has received a $185,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to conduct a three-year investigation of "environmental governance."
The project, "Institutionalizing Environmental Governance: Development,
Democracy, and Expertise," is slated to begin January 1, 2003. It
will analyze the environmental governance paradigm that is supplanting
conventional state-centered economic and social development aid to the
Third World. Rajan will combine fieldwork in India with a systematic review
of the published literature to define environmental governance and add
to the theoretical understanding of democracy and technology and the role
of expertise in the environment and development in the Third World.
During the past two decades, according to Rajan, nongovernmental organizations,
with funding from U.S. foundations, have supported projects aimed at creating
ecological viability, sustainability, social equity, democracy, and public
accountability under the environmental governance model. These projects
have produced a number of "localized success stories across the developing
world," he said.
Despite the widespread appeal of the model, it has failed to displace
the old paradigm of socioeconomic development, and one reason, according
to Rajan, is that members of entrenched state communities, including civil
engineers, foresters, and electricity engineers belonging to state electricity
boards, have resisted the widespread adoption of such new hybrids.
Members of these technocracies think of themselves as uniquely qualified
to be able to make decisions in their areas, said Rajan, and are therefore
reluctant to adopt new models of how to apply technology toward development.
In addition, upper-level decision makers in state bureaucracies and technocracies
By examining environmental government as it plays out in three sectors
in India--forests and biodiversity, water, and renewable energy--Rajan
will examine the underlying normative principles of environmental governance,
clarify the meanings of concepts like "democracy" and "sustainability,"
and lay down criteria to measure the success of developmental schemes
that embrace the environmental governance model. He will analyze what
it takes to retool state expert communities and to institutionalize a
new set of practices and procedures in state bureaucracies.
Finally, Rajan will examine what is entailed in "scaling up" technological and institutional designs that have been successful in micro contexts for broader application and how to transfer models across cultural contexts. An integral part of the project will be examining how to resolve the inevitable political conflicts that arise in the pursuit of paradigmatic change and the institutionalization of environmental governance.