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Sustainability 2014, 6(3), 1462-1488; doi:10.3390/su6031462

Group Inequality and Environmental Sustainability: Insights from Bangladesh and Kenyan Forest Commons

Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), Environment Department, University of York, Heslington, York YO10 5DD, UK
Center for Environmental and Geographic Information Services (CEGIS), House 6, Road 23/C, Gulshan 1, Dhaka 1212, Bangladesh
Kenya Forestry Research Institute, Coast Eco-Regional Research Programme—Gede, P.O. Box 1078, 80200 Malindi, Kenya
Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) Headquarters, P.O. Box 20412, 00200 Nairobi, Kenya
Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS), House 10, Road 16A, Gulshan 1, Dhaka 1212, Bangladesh
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 4 December 2013 / Revised: 25 February 2014 / Accepted: 10 March 2014 / Published: 20 March 2014
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The paper contributes to understanding the interactions of environmental and social dimensions of sustainability in situations of acute group inequalities. Using case studies of Mount Elgon in Kenya and Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh it shows the importance of ethnicity based inequalities in defining sustainability outcomes. The paper explores, first, the mechanisms through which dominant ethnic groups are able to exert influence on resource management at the expense of less powerful groups; and second, the consequences of ethnic inequalities for resource uses within ostensibly democratic systems. It combines information from social and political history with remote sensing data to explore causes, processes and patterns behind spatial trends in the study of forests. The paper concludes that efficacy of national democracy and its institutions in achieving positive environmental outcomes depends on the power relations among social groups, particularly in historically contested contexts. Further, environmental and social dimensions of sustainability cannot be treated separately and the issue of equity among groups, ethnic or otherwise, needs to be recognised in policies for sustainable development. The study points out the need for further research into integrating socio-political history with spatial data to better understand social and spatial distribution of policy impacts.
Keywords: ethnicity; sustainability; equity; democratic governance; forest commons ethnicity; sustainability; equity; democratic governance; forest commons
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Matin, N.; Islam, M.S.; Mbuvi, M.T.E.; Odit, B.O.; Ongugo, P.O.; Syed, M.A. Group Inequality and Environmental Sustainability: Insights from Bangladesh and Kenyan Forest Commons. Sustainability 2014, 6, 1462-1488.

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