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.

The authors combine 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.

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