Manchar Lake’s Hypothetical Restoration and Willingness of Fishing Communities to Switch Back To Fishing
Environmental and anthropogenic changes in lakes have implications for fishers’ livelihoods in form of their forced migration and occupational change. Those advocating lake restorations often face a dilemma when asked if lake restoration will also restore the lost livelihoods. Answering such questions are difficult because most people are not programmed for frequent changes in their livelihood structures. Using the case study of Manchar Lake fishers who seemingly have faced such transition, this study brings insights on this broad question. We developed an in-person survey based on Contingent Valuation Method (CVM) to study 300 fishers’ responses to a hypothetical situation whereby they were asked to “Switch Back” to Manchar Lake assuming that it has been restored to provide various ecosystem services. Results show that complete transformation in the livelihoods of fishing communities has taken place with remarkable variation in their access to assets and livelihood outcomes. Despite increase in their access to physical capital such as school, hospital, roads, and markets, the communities are still vulnerable to income shocks and rarely enjoy privileges such as house ownership. The comparative state of current and past livelihoods and asset possessions determine ones’ willingness to switch back to fishing in Manchar Lake. Those who may have performed better in the said transition are less likely to return to their erstwhile occupations even if the lake is restored and vice-versa. We conclude that satisfaction with current livelihood outcomes is low and willingness to switch back to fishing in Manchar Lake is high since many had been poor performers in the transition. While the environmental rationale for the Manchar Lake’s ecological restoration already exists, this study suggests that there also exists a socioeconomic rationale albeit in a way that restoration also supports contemporary ecological services such as tourism.