National Report on Protected Areas and Development
Thailandís remarkable development progress over the past several decades has often occurred at the expense of its natural resource systems. Forests, seashores and wetlands have been damaged and various types of development infrastructure have replaced natural environments. Economic priorities took precedence over conservation.
Protected areas are the last remaining bastions of Thailandís vital natural resource systems. Awareness of the importance of protected areas in preserving the nationís ecological integrity ó on which its sustainable development depends ó has grown with rapid modernisation. Increasingly, both the Royal Thai Government and the Thai people have recognised that the kingdomís protected area estate is a vital asset, both for conserving natural systems and species, and for sustaining national economic development potential and the livelihoods of millions of rural people. Thailandís protected areas already form one of the largest systems in the world as a proportion of national territory, and the government plans to increase the protected area estate to 25 per cent over the next decade. The Thai Protected Areas and Development Review is therefore a significant and timely initiative.
In the past, conservation issues were viewed as being separate from economic development concerns. This is changing, however. Protected area conservation has now become a major consideration for economic planners and a range of government and private sector development organisations. Protected area conservation and national economic development concerns are substantially interlinked. The Thailand PAD Review has helped to crystallize the understanding of the multiple benefits that protected areas provide to a range of development sectors. It is now much better appreciated that protected areas are essential for maintaining the capacity of critical ecosystems to support sustainable development. The PAD Review galvanised a multi-sectoral conservation and development constituency, bringing together ó in some cases for the first time ó specialists from forestry, agriculture, water resources, fisheries, tourism, power generation, transportation and industry. The review enabled specialists representing these diverse disciplines and organisations to reflect on how protected areas contribute to the productivity of various development sectors and how those benefits can best be enhanced and maintained.
This growing consensus about the links between conservation and development and the need to focus greater attention on Thailandís protected area system led to the establishment of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. The Ministry is now in the position to adopt a wider and more inclusive view of conservation issues, and to act on them in a broader developmental context.
Adopting the recommendations emerging from the PAD Review will enable the development benefits of protected areas to be conserved and incorporated into the mainstream of Thailandís development planning process. An initial step is properly valuing protected areas in economic terms and reflecting those values in national and sector budgets and in the overall flow of investment going to conservation. Protected areas need to be planned and managed as important components of the wider development landscape. The government has been piloting the management of complexes of protected areas that are linked through natural systems and surrounding developments. It has also been exploring various joint management approaches to protected areas so that communities can use and conserve natural resources in the long term. This work needs to continue as part of implementing the PAD Review Report.
It is in the interest of all of the concerned development sectors to put the PAD strategies into action. As this process continues, it will be necessary to capitalise on the experience and continuing support of the PAD partnership. For its part, the government is committed to the ongoing implementation of Thailandís PAD program and will be seeking to put the review strategies into practice.
Minister of Natural Resources and Environment
ICEM, 2003. Thailand National Report on Protected Areas and Development.
Review of Protected Areas and Development in the Lower Mekong River Region,
Indooroopilly, Queensland, Australia.
Thematic maps of Thailand's protected area system
Table of contents
PART 1: Thailand’s biophysical and demographic characteristics and their implications for protected areas
PART 2: Economic development, governance and protected areas
PART 3: Natural resource management and protected areas
PART 4: Sector development and protected areas
PART 5: Protected areas as a development strategy
References and suggested reading