The Indian state has conserved tigers by establishing reserves that are governed as a form of fortress conservation. Residence and local uses in these tiger reserves are often criminalized. It is in this context that we critique recent neoliberal attempts to estimate the economic value of ecosystem services from tiger reserves. Proponents of valuation argue that it will not only provide a justification for the reserves, but also recognize the importance of ecosystem services for human well-being. We use a political ecology approach to argue that economic valuation is never a benign tool, but is situated in wider institutional contexts that favor certain actors over others. In India, protected areas are being valued even as people living within them are being evicted and their use of the forest restricted. We draw from fieldwork in the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Hills of Karnataka and conversations with Soligas. We ask how nature is made legible and who benefits from such legibility? We suggest that economic valuation can hide complex human-nature relationships and undermine different ways of knowing and 'valuing' landscapes.
Keywords: tiger reserves, Karnataka, economic valuation
How to Cite:
Menon, A. & Rai, N. D., (2019) “The mismeasure of nature: the political ecology of economic valuation of Tiger Reserves in India”, Journal of Political Ecology 26(1), 652-665. doi: https://doi.org/10.2458/v26i1.23194