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The Lower Mekong River Region


First regional workshop

6 May 2002

Summary of discussion from day one


Direction and guidance for the PAD review arising from discussion of field study reports in panel sessions and working groups.

  • Need to exercise caution in promoting the use of protected area services and products as a strategy for their conservation; the critical question is - are the uses sustainable? For example, NTFP and wildlife use. Similarly, are the ecological costs associated with hydropower development acceptable?
  • Need to link conservation with development - not just highlight economic benefits but also ensure that conservation of protected areas is the first priority.
  • Social and intangible development benefits should be recognised, not just those benefits with immediate monetary value - for example, educational, health and cultural values.
  • The costs of protected areas, particularly to local communities, also need to be taken into account.
  • Interdisciplinary teams involving park management and planning agencies are needed to assess the benefits of all PAs to development.

Site selection when applying the PA benefits field study methods nationally

  • Sites should be groups or clusters of protected areas, not individual sites - this allows PAs to be assessed within the linking development landscape.
  • More study sites should be within the LMR basin.
    Are the study sites representative? Need to ensure pilot study sites reflects nationwide problems and a representative selection of ecosystems.
  • Understand the relevance of development policies to the PAs and their use eg decentralisation, poverty alleviation
  • Study process needs clear goals, objectives, target groups and methods.
  • Definition of "protected areas" and "development" should be clear and consistent - for example development is more than financial returns.
  • There is a limitation of data available; policy makers need to realise that collection of good data is imperative to good decision-making.
  • Government data is sometimes unreliable.
  • Need to use standard methodology; check quality and accuracy of information provided; be careful about assumptions and present them with caveats.
  • Need for rapid assessment techniques - decisions and plans need to be made in an timely way, otherwise unwise and uncontrolled development can overrun conservation assets.
  • Rapid assessment is facilitated if the results of studies done in other similar areas could are used to value benefits (eg. tourism visitation, rates, travel cost method) - these are called benefit transfer studies.
  • There is limited capacity. Agency staff will need training in this form of economic analysis.

Acknowledged importance of the field studies as discussed in panel sessions and working group discussions.

  • They demonstrated the development benefits of protected areas.
  • Field study results provide information for local level officials to bring protected areas into the development planning process, because of the contributions they are making to the various productive sectors of the economy.
  • Examples of cooperation in management of shared marine and terrestrial ecosystems were provided.
  • Development of simple methods for valuing PAs and for assessing their development benefits.

Points raised on integrating PAs with economic planning

  • Location of protected areas on a national planning perspective is very relevant, especially in recognising and capturing the development benefits that are expected to flow?
  • There is insufficient collaboration between sectors to ensure that PA development benefits are maintained and enhanced - some sectors are benefiting but others are degrading those benefits.
  • Need to establish linkages with local communities, sectors, and other countries.
  • Establishment of protected areas management boards with representatives from key stakeholders to build capacity, and undertake poverty alleviation programs. Establish stakeholder committees at local and national levels in dealing with protected area issues.
  • Downstream users eg of water, should pay the cost of upstream management. This applies within and between countries.
  • Cross sector agreements and international law is needed to ensure the 'user pays'.
  • Major developers must pay realistic cost for PA services eg hydro schemes with PAs in Lao PDR, Vietnam and Cambodia.
  • Increase regional cooperation in protected area planning and management is needed, including through transboundary protected areas (TBPAS).
  • TBPAS provide the opportunity for large ecosystems to be protected under a common and agreed management regime; are separately managed by the countries involved; there is regular sharing of information and cooperation; cooperation is better between countries of equal power and capacity.
  • Relevance and implications of development policies to protected areas and their use should be assessed and understood.
  • Use zonation to manage uses, apply the user-pays principle, establish local PA funds, and realise that not all protected areas and zones with each PA can generate tangible benefits.
  • The user pays principle should not only apply to domestic users but also international beneficiaries. Major development projects need to consider upstream and downstream costs.
  • Need criteria for establishing protected areas - some countries have set aside very high percentage of land as protected areas but the levels of protection vary greatly. Ensuring representativeness and using different categories of protected areas is important in realising the full range of PA development benefits.
  • For each PA explore opportunities for revenue generation and ensure adequate investments flow from users. This will require adequate assessments of benefits and negotiated agreements with benefitiaries.
  • Manage protected areas effectively in ways that ensure the right to livelihood of local people. There needs to be compensation for restrictions imposed on local subsistence users. There should be equity and local benefits - local people must have priority access. For example, there needs to be local benefit sharing, eg. tourism revenues with local communities.
  • Ensure use of EIA in development planning in and around protected areas. Need for EIA of all development projects in protected areas.
  • Building of simulation models to assess costs and benefits - whether tourism infrastructure development is being done in an environmental sensitive or destructive manner and the resultant impacts on tourism visitation to the area.
  • There is a need to create greater awareness of protected area benefits and users, in particular, need to be aware of the benefits they receive. The existing protected area system is not fully valued by the governments or decision-makers; the benefits analysis can be used as a tool to increase awareness. Awareness of PA values within Government and development sectors needs to be raised