The idea of Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) is intuitively appealing. After all, everybody benefits from the ‘services’ that ecosystems provide such as clean air and water. Grouped as provisioning (food and water), regulating (climate and disease control), supporting (nutrient cycles and pollination) and cultural (aesthetic, spiritual or recreational) services, these collectively provide irreplaceable benefits for humankind. The idea then is that we should be willing to pay for these services, since not everyone shares the burden of maintaining these ecosystems in a state where they can provide these services.
In this issue, we examine this claim that PES is the panacea to our environmental problems while ensuring social justice. Lele examines whether PES delivers on the win-win outcomes it promises by deconstructing how Reducing Emissions from Deforestration and forest Degradation (REDD+) works. Jha contends that the loftier goals of Green India Mission are corrupted by its dependence on existing forest governance mechanisms that are not truly participatory. Menon and Kohli argue that the monetisation of forests has led to a commodification where their multiple meanings in ecology and culture are
lost. And Buscher’s analysis of PES in action in the Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Park suggests that it is best viewed as a form of neo-liberal conservation. In summary, it seems that PES should be treated with care, and might
not be the solution to environmental problems that many make it out to be.
Editor’s Note:Kartik Shanker