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Sharachchandra Lélé

Senior Fellow and Coordinator Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Environment and Development









Sharad Lélé has a broad interest in resource and environmental issues, which began while he was doing his B.Tech. in Electrical Engineering in IIT Bombay. He moved to the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, where he completed an M.S. in Systems Science in 1987, working on the optimal sizing of hydropower projects incorporating the energy and economic costs of land submergence. He went on to the University of California, Berkeley, where he completed a Ph.D. in Energy & Resources in 1993 on the definition, measurement and causal analysis of sustainability in forest use in a part of the Western Ghats forests. He then spent a year at the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security, Oakland, as a Senior Research Associate and a year at Harvard University as a Bullard Fellow for Forest Research, before returning to Bangalore to work in collaboration with the Institute for Social & Economic Change, and eventually to being involved in the founding of CISED.

Sharad’s research interests include conceptual issues in sustainable development and sustainability, and analyses of institutional, economic, ecological, and technological issues in forest, energy, and water resource management. He attempts to incorporate strong interdisciplinarity in his own research and teaching, which straddles ecology, economics, and political science.

Ongoing Studies

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  • Long-term Impacts of Watershed Development: A study in 3 Indian states, with Shrinivas Badiger and A. K. Kiran Kumar, in collaboration with researchers from SOPPECOM and GIDR [Abstract: Pdf file, 95.7 KB]

Recently Completed Studies

  • Climate Change and India, a review of India’s role and predicament in the context of global climate change. In collaboration with Ashok Gadgil., Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
  • NTFP Policy in India: Rhetoric and Reality. In collaboration with Manoj  Pattanaik, Regional Centre for Development Cooperation, and Nitin Rai, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment [Abstract: link]
  • Land-cover change, Watershed Services, and Socio-economic Impact in the Western Ghats, in collaboration with UNESCO, National Institute of Hydrology, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology & the Environment, and the Karnataka Forest Department [Abstract:Pdf file, 9.90 KB]
  • Influence of Forest Cover Change on Watershed Functions in the Western Ghats: A Coarse-Scale Analysis, with Jaysree Vaidyanthan and Santosh Hegde [Abstract: Pdf file, 259 KB]
  • Understanding Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) in South Asia, with Ajit Menon, Praveen Singh, Esha Shah, Suhas Paranjape and K.J.Joy [Abstract: Pdf file, 24.5 KB]

Older Studies

  • Induction, development and impact of GIS/RS facility and applications in Karnataka Forest Department, with P.J. Dilip Kumar, S. Nagaraj and K.S. Shashidhar. [Full text : Pdf file, 454 KB]
  • Joint Forest Planning and Management in the Eastern Plains of Karnataka: A Rapid Assessment, with Kiran Kumar and Pravin Shivashankar. [Full text : Pdf file, 536 KB]
  • Patterns, determinants and impacts of land-cover change in the Western Ghats , in collaboration with Kamal Bawa, with financial support from the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Under this project, several studies have been initiated/supported:
  1. Returns to forest conservation: Disaggregated benefit-cost analysis of the conversion of BRT Reserve Forests to Wildlife Sanctuary, with Veena Srinivasan and Kamaljit S. Bawa. [Abstract]
  2. Land-cover mapping of Chickmagalur district, with Muthatha Ramanathan
  3. Impact of land-cover change from natural forests to coffee on the insect community in ground litter, with B. Smitha, Jagdish Krishnaswamy and K. Chandrasekhara. Abstract: pdf
  4. Impact of land-cover change from natural forests to secondary forests and plantations, with D. Priyadarsanan and Sinu Palatty.
  • Ecology, Economics and Institutions of Forest Use in the Western Ghats: This project was completed under Dr. Lélé’s leadership as a collaboration between Pacific Institute for Studies in Environment, Development, and Security and the Institute for Social and Economic Change.
  • Land Use Change and Litter Insect Communities: Effects of Traditional Forest Use and Modern Plantations in Sringeri Taluka of the Western Ghats of India. This project was completed, under Dr. Lélé’s leadership, with P. Dharma Rajan, P. A. Sinu. [Abstract]

Full list of Publications

Refereed Journal publications

  • Lélé, S. (1987), “Improved algorithms for reservoir capacity calculation incorporating storage-dependent losses and dependability norm”, Water Resources Research, vol. 23, no.10, pp.1819-23.
  • Lélé, S. and D. K. Subramanian (1988), “A hydro-wood net-energy approach to hydro project planning”, Energy, vol.13, no.4, pp.367-381.
  • Lélé, S., R. B. Norgaard, and D. K. Subramanian (1988), “Hydropower project design incorporating submergence costs”, Journal of Environmental Management, vol.27, pp.307-323.
  • Lélé, S. (1991), “Sustainable Development: a critical review”, World Development, vol. 19 , no.6, pp.607-621. 
  • Lélé, S. (1993), “Private property rights and forest preservation in Karnataka Western Ghats, India: Comment”, American Journal of Agricultural Economics, vol.75, pp.492-495.
  • Lélé, S. (1994), “Sustainable use of biomass resources: A note on definitions, criteria, and practical applications”, Energy for Sustainable Development, vol.1, pp.42-46.
  • Lélé, S. and R. B. Norgaard (1996), “Sustainability and the Scientists’ Burden”, Conservation Biology, vol. 10 , no.2, pp.354-365.
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  • Lélé, S. (1996), “Environmental governance”, Seminar, no. 438, pp.17-23.
  • Lélé, S. and G.T. Hegde, (1997), “Potential herb layer production and grazing effects in anthropogenic savannahs in the moist tropical forests of the Western Ghats of India”, Tropical Grasslands, vol. 31 , no.6, pp.574-587. [Full Paper, Pdf file, 900 KB]
  • Lélé, S. (1998), “Resilience, Sustainability, and Environmental Soundness”, Environment & Development Economics, vol. 3 , no.2, pp.251-255.
  • Lélé, S., G. Rajashekhar, V. R. Hegde, G. P. Kumar and P. Saravanakumar, (1998), “Meso-scale analysis of forest condition and its determinants: A case study from the Western Ghats region, India”, Current Science, vol. 75 , no.3, pp.256-263.
  • Lélé, S. and V. Saberwal, (2000), “The Problem (introducing the special issue on Environmental Degradation: Myth and Reality )”, Seminar, vol. 486, pp.12-14.
  • Lélé, S. (2000), “Degradation, sustainability or transformation?”, Seminar, vol. 486, pp.31-37.
  • Badrinarayanan, S., J. Krishnaswamy, S. Lélé, and K. Chandrashekara, K. (2001), “Consequences of Forest Conversion to Coffee Plantation on Litter Beetle and Ant Communities”, in K.N. Ganeshaiah, R.U. Shaanker, and K.S. Bawa, (Eds.), Proceedings of International Conference on Tropical Ecosystems: Structure, Diversity and Human Welfare, Oxford-IBH Publishing, New Delhi, pp.162-163.
  • Lélé, S., V. Srinivasan, and K.S. Bawa, (2001), “Returns to Investment in Conservation: Disaggregated Benefit-Cost Analysis of the Creation of a Wildlife Sanctuary,” K.N. Ganeshaiah, R.U. Shaanker, and K.S. Bawa, (Eds)., Proceedings of International Conference on Tropical Ecosystems: Structure, Diversity and Human Welfare, Oxford IBH Publishing, New Delhi, pp.31-33.
  • Lélé, S., (2003). “Challenges in Doing Socially Relevant and Interdisciplinary NRM Research for Integrated Development”, in P.S.Ramakrishnan, K.G. Saxena, Suprava Patnaik, and Surendra Singh, (Eds)., Methodological Issues in Mountain Research: A Socio Ecological Systems Approach, Oxford & IBH, New Delhi, pp.57-78.
  • Bawa, K.S., John, W. Kress, N.M. Nadkarni, and S. Lélé, (2004). “Beyond Paradise-Meeting the Challenges in Tropical Biology in the 21st Century”, Biotropica, 36(4): 437-446. [Full Paper: Pdf file 134 KB]
  • Saberwal, V., and S. Lélé, (2004). “Locating Local Elites In Negotiating Access to Forests: Havik Brahmins and the Colonial State, 1860-1920″, Studies in History, 20(2): 273-303.
  • Lélé, S., (2004). “Beyond state-community and bogus “joint”ness: Crafting institutional solutions for resource management,” in Max Spoor (Ed.) Globalisation, Poverty and Conflict: A Critical “Development” Reader, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht and Boston, pp.283-303.
  • Lélé, S., and R. Norgaard, (2005). “Practicing Interdisciplinarity”, BioScience, 55 (11): 967-975.[Full Paper:Pdf file 125 KB]
  • Lélé, S., and A. Menon, (2005). “DRAFT NEP 2004: A Flawed Vision”, Seminar, 547, March. [Full Paper]
  • Lélé, S., (2006). “Linking Ecology, Economics, and Institutions of Village-level Forest Use in the Karnataka Western Ghats”, Sahyadri E-News: Western Ghats Biodiversity Information System, (21), July. [Full paper]
  • Joy, K.J., A. Shah, S. Paranjape, S.Badiger, and S. Lélé (2006), “Issues in Restructuring”, Economic and Political Weekly, XLI (27 and 28): 2994-2996, July. [Full Paper, 20.3 KB]
  • Lélé, S., (2006). “Thinking about Ecological Sustainability”, Seminar, 564: 48-52, August. [Full Paper:Pdf file, 33.7 KB]
  • Lélé, S., (2007). “A “Defining” Moment in Forests? Economic and Political Weekly, XLII (25), June. [Full Paper: Pdf file, 35.6 KB]
  • Kumar, Kiran, A. K., S. Lélé, and P. Shivashankar, (2007). “Impact of irrigation-led agricultural development on use of common lands in dry regions of Karnataka, India,” WII-Ford Forestry Case Studies, Winrock International India, June. [Full paper: Pdf file, 502 KB]
  • Rosencranz, Armin, and S. Lélé, 2008, “Supreme Court and India’s Forests”, Economic and Political Weekly, XLIII (5): 11-14, February 2. [Full Paper: Pdf file 236 KB]

Other Publications

  • Lélé, S, (1988), “The Concept of Sustainability”, In A. T. Charles and G. N. White III (Eds.), Natural Resources Modelling and Analysis: Proceedings of a Conference held at St. Mary’s University and the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Halifax, Canada, Sept 29-Oct 2, pp.46-48.
  • Lélé, S, (1993), “Sustainability: A Plural, Multi-Dimensional Approach”, working paper, Pacific Institute of Studies in Development, Environment & Security, November.
  • Lélé, S, and R. J. Rao, (1996), “Whose Cooperatives and Whose Produce? The Case of LAMPS in Karnataka”, in R. Rajagopalan (Ed.), Rediscovering Cooperation, Institute of Rural Management, Anand, Gujarat, pp.53-91.
  • Lélé, S, R. J. Rao, Nanjundaiah, and V. Muthaiah, (1996), “Re-Lighting LAMPS: A Draft Action Plan for Revitalizing the Tribal Cooperatives in Karnataka”, in R. Rajagopalan (Ed.), Rediscovering Cooperation, Institute of Rural Management, Anand, Gujarat, pp.92-105.
  • Lélé, S, (1998), “Godsend, Sleight of Hand, or Just Muddling Through: Joint Management in India, paper presented”, held at the University of British Columbia Crossing Boundaries: The Seventh Common Property Conference, Vancouver, Canada on June 10-14th, (subsequently revised and published as “Godsend, Sleight of Hand, or Just Muddling Through: Joint Water and Forest Management in India”, ODI Natural Resource Perspectives, No.53, Overseas Development Institute, London).
  • Lélé, S., K. S. Murali, and K. S. Bawa, (1998), “Community Enterprise for Conservation in India: Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Sanctuary”, in A. Kothari, Neema Pathak, R. V. Anuradha and Bansuri Taneja (Eds), Communities and Conservation: Natural Resource Management in South & Central Asia, Sage Publications, New Delhi, pp.449-466.
  • Lélé, S, (1999), “Institutional Issues in (J)FM (& R)”, keynote paper presented at, National Workshop on JFM, VIKSAT-Ahmedabad, February 24-26,
  • Lélé, S., M. Ramanathan, and G. Previshkumar, (1999), “High-Resolution Vegetation Mapping for Forest Management in the Western Ghats of Karnataka”, Proceedings of, Ninth User Interaction Workshop, National Remote Sensing Agency, Hyderabad, pp.137-144.
  • Parikh, A, S. Lélé, A. S. Shrinidhi, and R. J. Rao, (1999), “Influence of Forest Rights Regimes on Sustainability and Returns from NTFP Harvest: The Case of Garcinia Gummi-Gutta in the Western Ghats of India”, paper presented at, National Workshop on JFM, VIKSAT-Ahmedabad, February 24-26.
  • Lélé, S, 2001, “‘Pixelising the Commons’ and ‘Commonising the Pixel’: Boon or Bane?” The Common Property Resource Digest, 58, September. [Article]
  • Lélé, S, (2001), “The Concept of Participatory Forest Management, Its Rationale and Implications for Karnataka”, position paper of, Jana Aranya Vedike, Bangalore. [Weblink]
  • Srinidhi, A. S, and S. Lélé, (2001), “Forest Tenure Regimes in the Karnataka Western Ghats: A Compendium”, working paper no. 90, Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore.
  • Lélé, S, (2003), “Karnatakadha Aranya Samasyegalu”, Hosatu (Kannada Magazine), July.
  • Lélé, S, (2003), “Participatory Forest Management in Karnataka: At the Crossroads”, Community Forestry, 2, (4). [Article]
  • Menon, A, and S. Lélé, (2003), “Critiquing the Commons: Missing the Woods for the Trees?” The Common Property Resource Digest. [Article]
  • Sills, Erin O, S. Lélé, Thomas P. Holmes, and Subhrendu K. Pattanayak, (2003), “Non-Timber Forest Products in the Rural Household Economy”, in Sills and Abt (Eds.), Forests in a Market Economy, pp.259-281. [Article]
  • Bawa, K. S, John W Kress, N. M Nadkarni, S Lélé, P. H Raven, D. H Janzen, A. E Lugo, P. S Ashton, and T. E Lovejoy, (2004), “Tropical Ecosystems into the 21st Century”, Science, 306, (5694), October 8, pp.227-228.
  • Lélé, S, (2004), “Decentralising Governance of Natural Resources in India: A Review”, review paper submitted to, UNDP Dryland Development Centre, Nairobi. [Article]
  • Joy, K. J, A. Shah, S. Paranjape, S. Badiger, and S. Lélé, (2005), “Reorienting the Watershed Development Programme in India; Approaches, Outcomes & Impact Assessment”, Occasional Paper, Society for Promoting Participative Ecosystem Management, Pune, Gujarat Institute of Development Research, Ahmedabad and Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Environment and Development, Bangalore. [Article]
  • Lélé, S, and A. Menon, (2005), “Neo-Liberal Verbiage”, Down To Earth, January 15, pp.53.
  • Lélé, S, and L. Venkatachalam, (2006), “Assessing the Socio-Economic Impact of Changes in Forest Cover on Watershed Services”, in J. Krishnaswamy, S. Lélé and R. Jayakumar, (Eds.), Hydrology and Watershed Services in the Western Ghats of India: Effects of Land Use and Land Cover Change, Tata McGraw Hill, New Delhi,
  • Lélé, S, (2007), “Interdisciplinarity as a Three-Way Conversation: Barriers and Possibilities”, in Pranab Bardhan and Isha Ray (Eds.), The Contested Commons: Conversations between Economists and Anthropologists, Blackwell, Oxford, U. K, pp.187-207.
  • Lélé, S, (2007), “Sustainability”, in Roland Robertson and Jan Aart Scholte (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Globalization, N to T, Routledge, London, 3, pp.1102-1107. 



Menon, A, P. Singh, E. Shah, S. Lélé, S. Paranjape, and K. J. Joy, (2007), “Community-Based Natural Resource Management: Issues and Cases from South Asia”, Sage India. 

Edited Books

Lélé, S., G. Kadekodi and B. Agrawal (Eds.), (2002), “Interdisciplinarity in Environmental Research: Concepts, Barriers and Possibilities”, Indian Society for Ecological Economics, New Delhi.

For ordering, please mail to: INSEE.

Krishnaswamy, J., S. Lélé, and R. Jayakumar (Eds.), (2006), “Hydrology and Watershed Services in the Western Ghats of India: Effects of Land Use and Land Cover Change”, Tata McGraw Hill, New Delhi.

For details, please see link

Technical Reports:

Sathaye, J. A, A. N. Ketoff, L. J. Schipper, and S. Lélé, (1988), “An End Use Approach to Development of Long Term Energy Demand Scenarios for Developing Countries”, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory Tech. Rep. No. 25611.

Lélé, S., A. K. Kiran Kumar, and P. Shivashankar, (2005), “Joint Forest Planning and Management (JFPM) in the Eastern Plains Region of Karnataka: A Rapid Assessment”, Technical Report, Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Environment and Development, Bangalore, September.

[Full Report: Pdf file, 536 KB],[Executive Summary]


Professional Activities

  • Member, International Advisory Board, Journal of Peasant Studies (September 2008)
  • World Technology Network: 2006 World Technology Fellow (Environment).
  • Member, Academic Review Committee, IASCP 11th Biennial Conference.
  • Member, Working Group for 11th Plan on Research, Education and Information in Environment and Forests. (Report:link to word file, 0.98 MB)
  • Board of Trustees, Samrakshan Trust, Delhi
  • Member, Governing Council, Technology Informatics Design Endeavour (TIDE), Bangalore
  • Member, Research Advisory Board, Muruguppa Chettiar Research Centre (MCRC), Chennai
  • Founder Member (and currently on Executive Committee) of the Indian Society for Ecological Economics (INSEE).
  • Member, International Society of Ecological Economics (ISEE)
  • Member, Indian Society for Agricultural Economics (ISAE)
  • Member, Ecological Society of America (ESA)
  • Member, International Association for the Study of Common Property (IASCP).
  • Member, Editorial Board of Conservation and Society
  • Member, Steering Committee, Jana Aranya Vedike (People’s Forest Forum of Karnataka). 



  • Menon, A., P.Singh, E.Shah, S. Lélé, S. Paranjape,  and K.J. Joy, (2007). Community-Based Natural Resource Management: Issues and Cases from South Asia, Sage India. For details, please see Link