Environmental Management

, Volume 63, Issue 2, pp 233–248 | Cite as

Analyzing Social Networks to Examine the Changing Governance Structure of Springsheds: A Case Study of Sikkim in the Indian Himalayas

  • Sudeshna Maya Sen
  • Aprajita Singh
  • Navarun Varma
  • Divya Sharma
  • Arun KansalEmail author


The governance of natural resources now attracts greater participation of different stakeholders, ushering in a shift from conventional governance by the state to that by a network of stakeholders—a form of governance marked by a growing role of non-state and local actors. These changing dynamics are highlighted through a study of the governance network for springsheds in the Indian Himalayas by empirically mapping the changes in the Dhara Vikas Yojna, a plan or scheme (yojana) by the state for the development (vikas) of springs (dhara) in Sikkim, India, from policy planning to policy implementation. The study highlights the diverse existing and emerging roles of different stakeholders, the complex relationships between them, and the power dynamics that influence the management of springsheds. The study (1) identified some new but missing actors/actor groups that were critical to managing springs; (2) showed that although state governments continue to play a dominant role, decision making is shifting to non-state and local actors; and (3) highlighted the importance of exchanging knowledge and information in implementing a policy more effectively. Understanding the characteristics of the governance network helped in drawing lessons to make the plan more sustainable and replicable, which include considering the policy in the wider context of policies for other sectors such as sanitation and hydropower development, incentivising the emerging actors, and building a stronger interdisciplinary and inclusive knowledge network. Such an integrated approach to policymaking can also be adopted to analyze governance networks related to natural resources other than water.


Multi-stakeholder governance networks Actors and relationships Sikkim Power dynamics in governance Indian Himalayan Region 



We thank Dr. Ghanashyam Sharma for his valuable suggestions. We also thank all the respondents who participated in the workshop, field discussions, and interviews. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments to an earlier draft of this paper. The study was conducted with funding support from the Himalayan Adaptation, Water and Resilience (HI-AWARE) Research Consortium. The views and opinions in the paper are solely those of the authors.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Ansell C, Gash A (2008) Collaborative governance in theory and practice. J Public Adm Res Theory 18(4):543–571CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Azhoni A, Goyal MK (2018) Diagnosing climate change impacts and identifying adaptation strategies by involving key stakeholder organisations and farmers in Sikkim, India: challenges and opportunities. Sci Total Environ 626:468–477CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berkes F (2009) Evolution of co-management: role of knowledge generation, bridging organizations and social learning J Environ Manag. 90(5):1692–1702CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Berkes F, Colding J, Folke C (2003) Navigating social-ecological systems: building resilience for complexity and change. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  5. Bodin Ö, Crona BI (2009) The role of social networks in natural resource governance: what relational patterns make a difference? Glob Environ Change 19(3):366–374CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bodin Ö, Crona BI, Ernstson H (2006) Social networks in natural resource management: what is there to learn from a structural perspective? Ecol Soc 11(2):r2CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Borgatti SP (2002) NetDraw software for network visualization. Analytic Technologies, Lexington, KYGoogle Scholar
  8. Borgatti SP, Everett MG, Freeman LC (2002) UCINET for windows: software for social network analysis. Analytic Technologies, Harvard, MAGoogle Scholar
  9. Carlsson L, Sandström A (2008) Network governance of the commons. Int J Commons 2:33–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cash DW, Adger WN, Berkes F, Garden P, Lebel L, Olsson P, Pritchard L, Young O (2006) Scale and cross-scale dynamics: governance and information in a multilevel world. Ecol Soc 11(2):8. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Census of India (2011) Sikkim district census handbook, Gangtok. Directorate of Census Operations, SikkimGoogle Scholar
  12. Cox M (2014) Applying a social-ecological system framework to the study of the Taos Valley irrigation system. Human Ecol 42(2):311–324CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Crona BI, Hubacek K (2010) The right connections: how do social networks lubricate the machinery of natural resource governance? Ecol Soc 15(4):18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Crona BI, Bodin O (2006) What you know is who you know? Communication patterns among resource extractors as a prerequisite for co-management. Ecol Soc 11:7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dubé YC, Lange GM, Schmithüsen F (2007) Cross-sectoral policy linkages and environmental accounting in forestry. J Sustain For 23(3):47–66. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fliervoet JM, Geerlin GW, Mostert E, Smits AJM (2016) Analyzing collaborative governance through social network analysis: a case study of river management along the Waal River in the Netherlands. Environ Manag 57:355–367. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Folke C, Hahn T, Olsson P, Norberg J (2005) Adaptive governance of social–ecological systems. Annu Rev Environ Resour 30:441–473CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Freeman LC (1977) A set of measures of centrality based on betweenness. Sociometry 40(1):35–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Freeman LC (1979) Centrality in social networks conceptual clarification. Social Netw 1(3):215–239CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Freeman LC (2004) The development of social network analysis—a study in the sociology of science. Empirical Press, VancouverGoogle Scholar
  21. Government of Sikkim (2011) Sikkim state action plan on climate change. Government of Sikkim, GangtokGoogle Scholar
  22. Gruby RL, Basurto X (2013) Multi-level governance for large marine commons: politics and polycentricity in Palau’s protected area network. Environ Sci Policy 33:260–272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hanneman RA, Riddle M (2005) Introduction to social network methods. University of California, Riverside, Scholar
  24. Hasselman L (2016) Adaptive management; adaptive co-management; adaptive governance: what’s the difference? Australasian J Environ Manag.
  25. Haythornwaite C (1996) Social network analysis: an approach and technique for the study of information exchange. Libr Inf Sci Res 18(4):323–342CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Holling CS (1978) Adaptive environmental assessment and management. John Wiley, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  27. Holling CS, Meffe GK (1996) Command and control and the pathology of natural resource management. Conserv Biol 10(2):328–337CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Holvoet N, Dewachter S, Molenaers N (2016) Look who’s talking. Explaining water-related information sharing and demand for action among Ugandan villagers. Environ Manag.
  29. Howlett M, Ramesh M (2003) Studying public policy: policy cycles and policy subsystems. Oxford University Press, TorontoGoogle Scholar
  30. Jaja J, Dawson J, Gaudet J (2016) Using social network analysis to examine the role that institutional integration plays in community-based adaptive capacity to climate change in Caribbean small island communities. Local Environ.
  31. Janssen MA, Bodin Ö, Anderies JM, Elmqvist T, Ernstson H, McAllister RRJ, POlsson, Ryan P (2006) Toward a network perspective on the resilience of social-ecological systems. Ecol Soc 11(1):15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Jedd T, Bixler R P (2015) Accountability in Networked Governance: Learning from a case of landscapescale forest conservation Env. Pol. Gov. 25(3):172–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Katani (2010) The role of multiple institutions in the management of micro spring forests in Ukerewe, Tanzania. PhD ThesisGoogle Scholar
  34. Klijn EH, Koppenjan JFM (2000) Public management and policy networks public management. Int J Res Theory 2:135–158. Google Scholar
  35. Krishna A (2011) Gaining access to public services and the democratic state in India: institutions in the middle. Stud Comp Int Dev 46(1):98–117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lauber TB, Decker DJ, Knuth BA (2008) Social networks and community-based natural resource management. Environ Manag 42(4):677–687CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lienert J, Schnetzer F, Ingold K (2013) Stakeholder analysis combined with social network analysis provides fine-grained insights into water infrastructure planning processes. J Environ Manag 125:134–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Liu J, Dietz T, Carpenter SR, Alberti M, Folke C, Moran E, Pell AN, Deadman P, Kratz T, Lubchenco J, Ostrom E, Ouyang Z, Provencher W, Redman CL, Schneider SH, Taylor WW (2007) Complexity of coupled human and natural systems. Science 317:1513–1516CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Long H, Liu J, Tu C, Fu Y (2018) From state-controlled to polycentric governance in forest landscape restoration: the case of the ecological forest purchase program in Yong’an municipality of China. Environ Manag.
  40. Mansuri G, Rao V (2013) Localizing development. Does participation work? World Bank, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  41. Meinzen-Dick RS, Pradhan R (2001) Implications of legal pluralism for natural resource management. Institute of Development Studies, IDS Bulletin 32(4), pp.10-17.Google Scholar
  42. Moellenkamp S, Lamers M, Huesmann C, Rotter S, Pahl-Wostl C, Speil K, Pohl W (2010) Informal participatory platforms for adaptive management. insights into niche-finding, collaborative design and outcomes from a participatory process in the rhine basin. Ecol Soc 15(4):41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Mostert E, Pahl-Wostl C, Rees Y, Searle B, Tabara D, Tippet J (2007) Social learning in European river basin management; Barriers and fostering mechanisms from 10 river basins. Ecol Soc 12(1):19 (online) URL:
  44. Ndenomina A, Wiersum KF, Arts B (2018) The governance of indigenous natural products in Namibia: a policy network analysis. Environ Manag.
  45. Newig J, Günther D, Pahl-Wostl C (2010) Synapses in the network: learning in governance networks in the context of environmental management. Ecol Soc 15(4):24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. NITI Aayog (2015) Dhara Vikas: creating water security through spring-shed development in Sikkim In: Social sector service delivery: good practices resource book 2015. Government of India – UNDP, New Delhi, Chapter 2.7Google Scholar
  47. NITI Aayog (2017) Inventory and revival of springs of Himalaya for water security. Dept. of Science and Technology, Government of India, New DelhiGoogle Scholar
  48. Olsson P, Gunderson LH, Carpenter SR, Ryan P, Lebel L, Folke C, Holling CS (2006) Shooting the rapids: navigating transitions to adaptive governance of social-ecological systems. Ecol Soc 11(1):18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Ostrom E (1998) Scale, polycentricity, and incentives: designing complexity to govern complexity. In: Guruswarmy LD, McNeely JA (eds.) Protection of global diversity: converging strategies. Duke University Press, DurhamGoogle Scholar
  50. Ostrom E (2010) Beyond markets and states: polycentric governance of complex economic systems. Am Econ Rev 100:641–672CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Pahl-Wostl C, Holtz G, Kastens B, Knieper C (2010) Analyzing complex water governance regimes: the management and transition framework. Environ Sci Policy 13:571–581. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Palau J, Montaner M, López B, De La Rosa JL (2004) Collaboration analysis in recommender systems using social networks. In: International workshop on cooperative information agents. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, p 137–151Google Scholar
  53. Prell C, Hubacek K, Reed MS (2009) Stakeholder analysis and social network analysis in natural resource management. Soc Nat Resour 22:501–518CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Putzel L, Kelly AB, Cerutti PO, Artati Y (2015) Formalization as development in land and natural resource policy. Soc Nat Resour: Int J 28(5):453–472. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Rahman HMT, Saint Ville A, Song A, Po J, Berthet E, Brammer J, Brunet MD, Jayprakash LG, Lowitt KN, Rastogi A, Reed G, Hickey GM (2017) A framework for analyzing institutional gaps in natural resource governance. Int J Commons 11(2):823–853CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Rahman HMT, Sarker SK, Hickey GM, Haque MM, Das N (2014) Informal institutional responses to government interventions: lessons from Madhupur National Park, Bangladesh. Environ Manag 54(5):1175–1189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Rasul G (2014) Food, water, and energy security in South Asia: a nexus perspective from the Hindu Kush Himalayan Region. Environ Sci Policy 39:35–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Rathwell KJ, Peterson GD (2012) Connecting social networks with ecosystem services for watershed governance: a social-ecological network perspective highlights the critical role of bridging organizations. Ecol Soc 17(2):24. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Reed MS, Graves A, Dandy N, Posthumus H, Hubacek K, Morris J, Prell C, Quinn CH, Stringer LC (2009) Who’s in and why? A typology of stakeholder analysis methods for natural resource management. J Environ Manag 90(5):1933e1949CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Rist L, Shackleton C, Gadamus L, Chapin FS, Gowda CM, Setty S, Kannan R, Sheanker RU (2016) Ecological knowledge among communities, managers and scientists: bridging divergent perspectives to improve forest management outcomes. Environ Manag 57(4):798–813CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Rogers P (2006) Water governance, water security and water sustainability. In: Rogers P, Llamas MR, Martínez-Cortina L (eds.) Water crisis: myth or reality? Taylor & Francis, LeidenGoogle Scholar
  62. Schiffer E, Hauck J (2010) Net map collecting social network data and facilitating network learning through participatory influence network mapping. Field Method 22:231–249CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Stein C, Ernstson H, Barron J (2011) A social network approach to analyzing water governance: the case of the Mkindo catchment, Tanzania. Phys Chem Earth, Parts A/B/C 36(14):1085–1092CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Sud R, Mishra A, Varma N, Bhadwal S (2015) Adaptation policy and practice in densely populated glacier-fed river basins of South Asia: a systematic review. Reg Environ Change.
  65. Tambe S, Arrawatia ML, Kumar R, Bharti H, Shrestha P (2009) Conceptualizing strategies to enhance rural water security in Sikkim, Eastern Himalaya, India. Workshop proceedings on integrated water resource mManagement on 27th November 2009. Central Ground Water Board, Eastern Region, Ministry of Water Resources, Government of India, Kolkata, IndiaGoogle Scholar
  66. Tambe S, Kharel G, Arrawatia ML, Kulkarni H, Mahamuni K, Ganeriwala AK (2012) Reviving dying springs: climate change adaptation experiments from the Sikkim Himalaya. Mt Res Dev 32(1):62–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Tompkins EL, Adger WN (2004) Does adaptive management of natural resources enhance resilience to climatic change? Ecol Soc 9(2):10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Varma N, Mishra A (2017) Discourses, narratives and purposeful action – unraveling the social–ecological complexity within the Brahmaputra basin in India. Env Pol Gov 27:207–228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Wassermann S, Faust K (1994) Centrality and prestige., In: Social network analysis methods and applications (Structural Analysis in Social sciences). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, p 169-219.
  70. Young O (2006) Vertical interplay among scale-dependent environmental and resource regimes. Ecol Soc 11​(1): 27. [online] URL: http://www.ecologyandso Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sudeshna Maya Sen
    • 1
  • Aprajita Singh
    • 1
  • Navarun Varma
    • 2
  • Divya Sharma
    • 1
  • Arun Kansal
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Coca-Cola Department of Regional Water StudiesTERI School of Advanced StudiesNew DelhiIndia
  2. 2.Centre for Global Environment Research, Earth Science and Climate Change Division, The Energy and Resources InstituteIndia Habitat CentreNew DelhiIndia

Personalised recommendations