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The Lower Mekong River Region


First regional workshop

7 May 2002

Summary of discussion from day two


Working groups and discussions on day two focused on two questions:

  1. What are the key regional issues for protected areas and economic planning (eg. water, trade, and transboundary ecosystems)?
  2. What are the strategies for dealing with these issues on a regional scale?

National lessons learned

Each country delegation presented the results of its analysis of the national experience with protected areas and development over the past ten years. The presentations provided an overview of the respective protected area systems, outlined important trends over the past ten years looking at the issues involved in linking protected areas with development on an achievements and remaining challenges basis.

Key issues covered in the Lao presentation included the comprehensive nature of the protected area system and the GoL's progressive policy of participatory management. The challenges highlighted were the economic situation in Lao PDR, the lack of capacity at all levels and the need for provincial planning to include the functions and linkage with protected areas. The significant potential for hydropower development in Lao PDR and the links with PAs was also outlined. Other development sectors discussed were ecotourism, NTFPs and Fisheries and the role of Integrated Conservation and Development Projects (ICDPs) in exploring ways of integrating PAs into economic planning.

The Thai presentation highlighted the growing environmental awareness in Thailand and the changes in legislation reflecting this public awareness. The current commitment to expand Thailand's PA system to cover 25% of the country was emphasised, as were initiative to monitor development impacts on protected areas and involve local communities in planning and managing protected areas. The zoning of protected areas for conservation and sustainable use was considered a critical strategy. Key achievements include the expansion of reserve system, development of management plans, community involvement, the adoption of the concept of sustainable multiple use and the integration of PA management in the 5 year national development plan. Key challenges include management capacity, confused status of land ownership, designation of core zones in multiple use areas, good scientific knowledge for management, inconsistent legal framework, interdepartmental co-operation, development of good multiple use pilot projects and pressure for economic over environmental objectives.

The Vietnam presentation looked at the issues involved in integrating protected areas and economic planning, stakeholder participation in protected area management, adopting appropriate models for protected area management, filling knowledge gaps and funding mechanisms for protected areas. The key achievements were expansion of PA system, improved policy and planning framework, piloting of new approaches to stakeholder involvement, increased awareness and experience in implementing conservation projects, development of PA investment plans and institutional structures. Some key challenges include better integration of sectoral interests, engaging stakeholders, ecological viability of the many small and isolated PAs, diversifying management approaches, management capacity, scientific information base for managers and funding.

The Cambodian presentation highlighted the expansion of the PA system, the importance placed on poverty alleviation as a national priority, and the need for a national legal framework and policies on PAs. Key economic sectors receiving PA benefits were identified as forestry, fisheries, agriculture, tourism, water, energy, health, transport and rural development. Key achievements include the development of an institutional framework for PAs, piloting of community forests and fisheries, development of master plan for tourism and PAs, link between water supply and PAs, potential for hydro development, and the establishment of provincial and municipal PA conflict resolution sub committees. Some key challenges include illegal logging, hunting and NTFP collection, damaging fishing methods, over fishing, encroachment of agriculture, recognition of the benefits provided by PAs to water management, environmental assessment of hydro schemes, affect of transport infrastructure on PAs, co-management, and the wildlife trade.

Summary of key points raised during discussions following presentation of the national lessons papers.

  • Generally, there is a need to examine the selection criteria for protected areas across all countries - the number of categories allowing for varying intensities of use needs to be expanded. The controls on use are too restrictive and are contributing to the illegal degradation of the PA system rather than better conservation.
  • The involvement of the private sector through various systems of concessions in protected areas, for example for tourism, is in its infancy in the region and needs to be piloted and expanded.
  • In all countries, better cooperation between PA managers and line ministries is needed. In Cambodia, specific suggestions were the Ministry of Women's Affairs and the Ministry of Land Use Planning and Construction.
  • Information sharing among countries in the region concerning PAs is important, particularly for forest management and wildlife harvesting in and around PAs. The three key groups that should be involved in the development of sustainable use practices in the forestry sector are government agencies, private sector and local communities - each of these actors should be involved in the definition of regimes of protection and use for all forest systems.
  • The criteria for the siting of fish sanctuaries needs to be more fully developed in all countries. Some sanctuaries are not located to bring optimum benefits to the rehabilitation of fish stocks and habitats. For example, year-round water is not necessarily a useful criteria in areas where seasonal inundation is critical to breeding and nurseries.
  • It has been shown in commercial fisheries that by removing the largest individuals, you end up selecting for a smaller sized fish population and forcing younger spawning. Therefore, restrictions are needed so that the largest fish in the population are not removed. An example is with a striped bass fishery on the E. coast of the U.S. where there are minimum and maximum size limits.
  • Some governments have no clear legal framework for charging fees for nationals and internationals to enter protected areas and for the subsequent use of that revenue stream. In all four countries, most income from PA tourism is not invested back in the targeted protected areas.
  • The challenge of achieving both poverty reduction and conservation was of central concern to all countries. Increasingly, PAs would be assessed for the contribution they make to poverty reduction. A goal should be to have PA benefits and associated revenue flow back to the local communities as well as to effective conservation management. For this reason, the Government of Cambodia recently made a commitment to setting aside up to 30% of all protected areas for co-management with local communities. In areas where there is tourism potential, ecotourism can provide job opportunities and alternative income streams. In Thailand, people who live around protected areas are able to sell items such as NTFPs to local and foreign tourists, as well as to serve as tourist guides. In Cambodia, approximately 60% of rangers are recruited from local communities. In one protected area, people can collect and sell NTFPs. There should be consideration by government regarding what portion of protected area revenues should flow back to local communities. Funds from protected areas should be used to support community infrastructure. In Vietnam, it is required by national legislation that whenever protected areas are proposed, they must include plans for resettlement of people and the establishment of buffer zones, in order to reduce pressure on the core zone. There are also government programmes for people in and around protected areas, such as rural credits and job creation.
  • Thailand has a system for collecting revenues from protected area visitors and for collecting fines. These revenues are used for development of park facilities. With government decentralisation, 5% of this income also now goes to subdistricts.
  • Protected areas can provide only limited income generation opportunities - false expectations should not be raised.