ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Rescaling of Coastal and Forest Governance and the Marginalised Communities

The proposed changes to the Coastal Regulation Zone, 2018 norms as well as the Indian Forest Act, 2019 are a manifestation of the neo-liberal Indian state’s role as an institutional mediator of capital (Brenner 1997). The state has been actively facilitating the intrusion and flow of capital by enabling the production of space for capital accumulation through changes in governance and new regulatory forms. The demarcation of new geographies for accumulation within territorial boundaries by eliminating the hitherto existing barriers has been proposed by rescaling the governance of these spaces. Besides this, the state has also planned the setting up of physical infrastructure, highways, and ports for expansion of capital accumulation and development of real estate and tourism through the production of space for accelerated accumulation of capital (Brenner 1999). 

The changes in the governance of fragile ecological territories would bring about a state-led deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation of the forest and coastal lands. But, what about the inhabitants—the traditional fishers and the forest-dependent communities/Adivasis who bear the brunt of these processes? How would the indigenous communities cope with the rescaling and transformation in the governance of their territories through new institutional and regulatory forms? Further, the state, by exercising its authority, has blatantly proposed changes while infringing upon as well as denying rights held over common property resources and other informal arrangements, the parameters of which are now being redrawn rather coercively. 

The utilitarian approaches of the policies favour the interests of capital over both the needs of coastal and forest ecology and conservation and those of the fishers and indigenous communities/Adivasis who are dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods. These communities who are the centuries-old custodians of the coasts and forests, on the contrary, do not view the sea, the coasts and the forests as mere resources for capital accumulation. They also ascribe cultural, social, ecological as well as economic value to them beyond the market value. Given this, the concerns of these groups are often perceived to be in conflict with those that seek to accumulate profits from commercialisation and commodification of coastal and forest resources. 

The changes orchestrated by the state would not only intensify conflicts over the use of resources, but could also lead to large-scale alienation and displacement of traditional inhabitants from their ancestral lands, entailing huge social costs through processes of deterritorialisation. The coercive rescaling and reconfiguration of forest and coastal governance through processes of reterritorialisation would, in turn, exacerbate risks to resource-dependent livelihoods of the marginalised groups and intensify socio-economic inequality. These marginalised groups already suffer from multiple deprivations as they are placed at the bottom of the caste-ridden social structure. The proposed rescaling of governance comes at a time when the fishers and the Adivasis are perceived as “outliers,” and are bypassed by the different “models of development.” This reflects the state’s nonchalant stance and utter neglect of pivotal issues concerning natural resource-dependent populations and their well-being. By giving precedence to the pursuit of private profits over their social development, these groups are being subjected to indifference and apathy by the state, even though they also happen to be “equal” citizens.



Brenner Neil (1997): “Global, Fragmented, Hierarchical: Henri Lefebvre’s Geographies of Globalization,” Public Culture, No 10, pp 137–169.

—(1999): “Globalization as Reterritorialisation: The Re-scaling of Urban Governance in the European Union,” Urban Studies, Vol 36, No 3, pp 431–451.


The views expressed here are personal and do not reflect the collective view from the journal.


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