All about eco-sen­si­tive zones

HT Estates - - HTESTATES -

In many places, con­tin­u­ing degra­da­tion of tra­di­tional val­ues is re­sult­ing in de­creas­ing re­spect for buffer zones. The real size of a buffer zone is of­ten the re­sult of ne­go­ti­a­tions between the var­i­ous stake­hold­ers and very much de­pends on the avail­abil­ity of land. In a strat­i­fied so­ci­ety, there is the dan­ger that th­ese ne­go­ti­a­tions are dom­i­nated by the most pow­er­ful in­hab­i­tants. It is, there­fore, cru­cial that all stake­hold­ers are fully in­volved in defin­ing the buffer zone area.

In re­cent years, the con­cept of buffer zone man­age­ment has emerged as a rel­a­tively new, in­te­grated de­vel­op­ment ap­proach to na­ture con­ser­va­tion.

Buffer zones are seen as an im­por­tant tool in con­serv­ing ar­eas of eco­log­i­cal im­por­tance, while at the same time ad­dress­ing the de­vel­op­ment is­sues of the peo­ple in the ar­eas sur­round­ing it. There are no in­ter­na­tional treaties and con­ven­tions specif­i­cally deal­ing with buffer zones, but in prac­tice, buffer zones are of­ten ap­plied as tools to im­ple­ment those con­ven­tions, ac­cord­ing to Dr Mon­al­isa Sen, a sci­en­tist work­ing on en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues.

The Con­ven­tion on Bi­o­log­i­cal Di­ver­sity (CBD) of 1992 does not ex­plic­itly men­tion buffer zones, but some chap­ters are rel­e­vant to buffer zone man­age­ment. The pre­ferred size of a buffer zone is vari­able, de­pend­ing on the ob­jec­tives, avail­abil­ity of land, tra­di­tional land use sys­tems, threats and op­por­tu­ni­ties.

From an eco­log­i­cal point of view, the larger the buffer zone and the more it can be seen as an ex­ten­sion of the pro­tected area, the bet­ter for the con­ser­va­tion area and its bio­di­ver­sity, in­clud­ing nat­u­ral pro­cesses.

From a so­cial and eco­nomic point of view, how­ever, this is not of­ten pos­si­ble. Econ­o­mists will ar­gue that there is an op­ti­mal size for any buffer zone whereby at the mar­gin, the in­cre­men­tal cost of en­larg­ing the zone will no longer be com­pen­sated by the ad­di­tional ben­e­fits gen­er­ated by such en­large­ment.

At best, there is still room for im­proved pro­tec­tion, but at a cost that ex­ceeds the ex­pected ben­e­fi­cial im­pact. Con­se­quently, there will al­ways be a de­gree of en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age to pro­tected ar­eas that is - eco­nom­i­cally speak­ing - ac­cept­able.

The so­cial ar­gu­ment against en­large­ment of buffer zones is sim­i­lar: in most cases it can only be done by cur­tail­ing the right of ac­cess to and use of nat­u­ral re­sources in the af­fected ar­eas.

More­over, not all in­di­vid­ual mem­bers in a com­mu­nity, or for that mat­ter within the house­holds, will be equally af­fected by re­stric­tions on re­source use. Women quite of­ten per­form a greater va­ri­ety of house­hold tasks and might, there­fore, be more se­verely af­fected by re­stric­tions in re­source use than men.

In ar­eas tra­di­tion­ally used by the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion for NTFP (non-tim­ber for­est prod­ucts) col­lec­tion, buffer zones that in­clude ar­eas of shift­ing cul­ti­va­tion and tim­ber ex­trac­tion ar­eas will have to be large enough to sus­tain­ably sup­port th­ese tra­di­tional use sys­tems. A buffer zone that grad­u­ally de­grades does not serve its pur­pose. Assess­ment and mon­i­tor­ing, there­fore, will be very im­por­tant in de­ter­min­ing the ef­fec­tive­ness of a buffer zone.

Tra­di­tional-use zones func­tion­ing as buffer zones can be lo­cated in­side as well as out­side the con­ser­va­tion area.

Eco­nomic buffer zones, such as tea, rub­ber, fruit and tim­ber plan­ta­tions, may be of any size. In many cases th­ese were cre­ated long ago, and they are usu­ally sit­u­ated out­side the con­ser­va­tion ar­eas.

Cul­tural buffer zones can be of any size. Cul­tur­ally sig­nif­i­cant ar­eas such as sa­cred places/groves and ceme­ter­ies are well pro­tected and make ex­cel­lent buffer zones.

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