Areport on protected areas in the Lower Mekong region has recommended the country
manage its protected areas under a single system and integrate them into the national
poverty reduction strategy (NPRS).
The report, which was sponsored by the World Conservation Union (IUCN), found that
protected areas are becoming increasingly important in the economic development of
sectors such as tourism, energy, water resource management and agriculture.
It recommended setting up conservation trust funds at the local and national level,
and implementing a user-pay principle to tax industries that benefit from natural
It remains to be seen whether the government will adopt the proposal. The review,
which was finished in March, will be sent to ministries and project partners such
as the Asian Development Bank and Mekong River Commission this month. Similar reviews
are underway in Laos, Vietnam and Thailand.
The NPRS, which is a $1.5 billion effort to combat poverty, was approved by the National
Assembly earlier this year, but makes only general recommendations about how to meet
economic goals while offering ecological safeguards.
Russell Peterson, who heads NGO Forum, said the NPRS had room for revision.
"The government has said the NPRS is a rolling strategy," he said. "Any
new input such as the IUCN report should be able to be inserted into its poverty
IUCN's coordinator, Mao Kosal, said many of the initiatives envisioned in its report
were not detailed, but would be fleshed out over the coming months. At least nine
ministries ranging from industry to environment are engaged in discussions aimed
at protecting threatened areas.
Kosal said he had submitted the report to the Ministry of Environment (MoE) and Ministry
of Economy and Finance, and was awaiting a reply.
The MoE said it had already adopted sustainable development and decentralization
programs - central elements of the IUCN plan - in its conservation strategy. Meng
Monyrak, the MoE's deputy head of national parks and wildlife sanctuary office, said
sustainable development methods were being tested.
The MoE has handed over ten protected sites this year as demonstration projects for
community management. Monyrak said the idea was to alleviate poverty while ensuring
local communities guarded their natural resources. If it proved successful, he said,
more reserves could be introduced.
"This is a policy of poverty reduction and giving power to the community,"