A plan to protect the biodiversity of Thailand's forests ignores the needs of forest dwellers
A PROPOSED forest conservation
programme in Thailand has met with
fierce resistance from non-governmental organisations, academicians
and forestry officials who feel the
project may dislocate forest dwellers.
The $93-million Conservation
Forest Area Protection, Management
and Development Project is to be
funded partly by a Global
Environment Facility grant of $20
million. Additional financing will
come from the Thai government and
the World Bank, which emphasises the need to protect "core"
biodiversity areas through
demarcation and buffer zones.
The programme will be initiated in the Huay Kha Kaeng
and Thung Yai Naresuan
wildlife sanctuaries in western
Thailand. The forests cover
600,000 ha, forming the largest
protected area in mainland
southeast Asia, and are home
to a large variety of animals that
are endemic to the region, such
as wild buffalo, tiger and clouded leopards.
However, many doubts about the
project have surfaced. A World Bank
document talks of "decriminalising"
forest dwellers and integrating them
into the mainstream of society. This
has triggered fears that emphasis will
be laid on resettlement.
Dave Hubbel of the Thailand-
based Project for Ecological Recovery
points out: "The Bank document
erroneously targets the livelihood
activities of small-scale farmers, tribals and forest dwellers as the most
serious threats to biological diversity,
while failing to recognise the destruction caused by the construction of dams and roads, mining and tourism."
And, Weerawat Theeraprascrt,
chief forest warden of the Thung Yai
Naresuan sanctuary, contends:
"Actual conservation of biodiversity
will happen only in direct cooperation with the people dwelling in forest areas."
Another fear is that the knowledge of the forest dwellers will be
used to identify genetic material that
can be developed into commercial products.
However, some experts
believe that the programme
offers the only hope of protecting fast-disappearing plant and
animal species. "We have about
5 per cent of the world's species
of flowering plants, but have
declared only 200 species as
protected under the law," says
Lart Chanthanaparb, head of the
programme's biodiversity section and professor of forest
ecology at Bangkok's Kasetsart
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.