Turning conflict into collaboration in managing commons: a case of Rupa Lake Watershed, Nepal
Authors: Pashupati Chaudhary, Netra B. Chhetri, Brian Dorman, Tom Gegg, Ram Bahadur Rana, Milan Shrestha, Keshab Thapa, Krishna Lamsal, Surya Thapa
International Journal of the Commons Vol. 9, no 2 September 2015, pp. 744–771.
A growing body of literature on the commons has provided fascinating
and intricate insights on how some local institutions have successfully managed
to avoid a seemingly inevitable “tragedy of the commons” once popularized by
Garrett Hardin. Primarily benefitting from the recent studies on the commonpool
resources conducted by Elinor Ostrom and colleagues, polycentric selforganization
and autonomy, rather than the direct state or market control over the
commons, are often recognized as key features of the long enduring commons.
However, these commons are quite diverse and the outcomes are often multiple
and complex, accentuating the needs to differentiate among multiple commons
outcomes. Furthermore, relatively under-reported are the cases where the
degradation of common-pool resources are actually halted, and even restored.
This study examines both the turbulent history of fishery mismanagement in
Rupa Lake, Nepal and its reversal built around the participation, engagement
and inclusiveness in the governance of its watershed. We find that Rupa Lake’s
experience tells two stories. Reflecting Hardin’s dire forecast, the Rupa Lake
watershed verged on collapse as population grew and seemingly selfish behavior
intensified under an open-access regime. But the users also found a way to
rebound and reverse their course as they adopted a bottom-up approach to fishery
management and established an innovative community institution, the ‘Rupa Lake
Rehabilitation and Fishery Cooperative’, dedicated to the sustainable governance
of the commons. This case highlights how one community at the threshold of
‘tragedy’ transformed itself by turning conflict into collaboration, which we hope
contributes to the effort of better understanding multiple commons.