by Jim Lobe
(IPS) WASHINGTON --
protected by the national
governments of developing countries are going largely unprotected,
according to a report released last month.
The study, carried out by the World Conservation Union (IUCN), found that only about one percent of protected areas in 10 key developing countries received adequate management and were secure against any foreseeable threat.
At the same time, some 11 percent of the protected areas were either thoroughly or considerably degraded, according to the study, which was commissioned World Bank/World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Alliance, created to promote the conservation and sustainable use of forests in the developing world.
"This new research highlights the urgent need to manage these protected areas more effectively so that they are secure for the people and wildlife who depend upon them for their survival," said Kathryn Fuller, the president of WWF-US.
Fuller, together with World Bank President James Wolfensohn, held a review of the Alliance at Bank headquarters with leaders of other environmental groups.
"This is a global challenge," said Wolfensohn, whose agency has been widely criticised in the past for funding projects and policies which harmed forests, particularly in tropical areas.
Wolfensohn and Fuller agreed that the IUCN findings were so alarming that they would add a new goal to the Alliance's seven- year agenda -- to ensure that 50 million hectares of already- protected but highly threatened forests were secured under effective management by the year 2005.
forests -- both temperate and tropical -- currently were being
cleared at the rate of 23 hectares each minute -- or a total of 12
million hectares a year, an area the size of Greece.
Major threats to forest areas in poor countries include logging, mining, agriculture, and herding. Some 350 million of the world's rural poor and forest-dwelling indigenous still depended on forests for their livelihood, the report said.
The Alliance, an unusual partnership between the Bank and a major non-governmental environmental organisation, also includes other NGOs, including Conservation International, the International Institute for Environment and Development, the IUCN, Resources for the Future, the Nature Conservancy, and the World Resources Institute, as well as a number of different national and international forestry institutes.
The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) also provided funding for the Alliance which next year will receive backing financial backing from Norway and Finland as well.
It originally set itself two main goals to accomplish by 2005: to persuade participating governments to create 50 million hectares of new protected forest; and to have 200 million hectares of forests, already being harvested under cultivation, to be put under independently certified sustainable management.
The alliance already has largely succeeded in its first goal. The governments of Brazil, Peru and the six nations of the Congo Basin, the site of Africa's largest remaining tropical rain forests, have agreed to designate some 34 million hectares of their land as "protected."
It also has worked closely with the governments of Latvia, Georgia, Madagascar, Vietnam, China, Indonesia, Cambodia, and Laos - some of the 22 countries which have joined the Alliance.
But designating areas as protected does not make them so, as the IUCN survey discovered.
It assessed the status of officially protected forests in ten key nations: Brazil, China, Gabon, Indonesia, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Russia, Tanzania, and Vietnam.
The study found that almost 25 percent of those areas were either somewhat or thoroughly degraded, while an additional 60 percent, while currently secure primarily because of their remoteness, were certain to face threats in the future.
Of the total, less than 25 percent of the protected areas were considered to be "well managed with good infrastructure," while as 69 percent of protected forests were found to have inadequate or no management in place.
greatest immediate threat to most of the protected forests
came from logging and mining operations, the study revealed. But
agriculture, overgrazing, human settlement, bushmeat hunting, the
collection of exotic species for sale, fire, war, tourism, and the
introduction and invasion of non-indigenous species also were
Nigel Dudley, who wrote the report, said most of the logging and mining operations in protected areas were carried out by local companies, rather than western transnational firms to which, however, the local firms often sold their harvest.
"A lot of the illegal timber ends up in the West," he said.
Wolfensohn, who said the Bank increasingly had tried to persuade local timber companies to cease predatory logging, added that some of the larger Asian countries also engaged in the practice, as did some European countries, particularly in Africa.
Underlying causes for the logging in protected areas, according to the report, included high consumption levels in the world's wealthy countries.
There also was the problem of persistent poverty in developing nations caused by such factors as international debt, pressure for trade and development, land tenure, population growth, corruption, lack of capacity and education, and social relations, particularly discrimination against women.
January 2, 2000 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact email@example.com for permission to use in any format.
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