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October 14, 2002

Awards and Honors

Rajan receives $185,000 grant from NSF for study of environmental governance

Ravi Rajan
UCSC Photo Services

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
remain unconvinced of the viability of environmental governance in part because the model has not been put forward as a cross-sectoral alternative to mainstream developmental policy.

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.


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