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Recommendations with respect to the special case of the mangrove forest of Thailand

Summarized by Eric Bird and Peter Kunstadter

The following recommendations were approved at the conclusion of the Workshop on the Socioeconomic Situation of Human Settlements in Mangrove Forests.

A. Philosophy

An underlying philosophy for a mangrove land-use zoning plan was recommended:

1. Mangroves are valuable resources, even in their natural state, and not wasteland. They should be preserved as much as possible for their multiple values as sources of economic, ecological, scientific, and cultural benefits now and for future generations. Because approximately 30 per cent of Thailand's mangrove forests have already been destroyed by conversion to other uses or by pollution, further conversion or destruction should be reduced to a minimum.

2. Plans for the use of mangrove areas should emphasize sustained productivity through multiple use rather than conversion for a single, exclusive use.

3. Plans for mangrove land-use zoning should be coordinated with national socio-economic development plans, both in terms of designated regions for industrial development and with regard to the socio-economic objectives of increasing the equity of distribution of development, especially for the benefit of the relatively poor rural majority of Thailand's population.

4. Research in Thailand and elsewhere has repeatedly demonstrated that changes within a river catchment (e.g. deforestation, cultivation and associated soil erosion and pesticide contamination, mining, modification of water flow and drainage) or in the adjacent marine environment (e.g. pollution, dredging, modification of tidal flow) can modify or destroy mangrove ecosystems. Likewise it has been demonstrated that change within the mangroves may have serious consequences on upstream and marine fisheries and on protection of the coastline. It is therefore recommended that planning for mangrove land-use zoning should be integrated with planning for coastal development and that upstream development plans should be examined for their potential effects on the mangroves.

B. Data to Be Collected

The following types of data required for rational scientific planning of mangrove land-use zones should be collected.

1. The general pattern of distribution of mangrove forests in Thailand is well known, but more detailed information is required concerning the distribution and quality of forest, landforms, and detailed information is required concerning the distribution and quality of forest, landforms, and clude information on current patterns of use and on the dynamics of existing mangrove areas (e.g. areas of die-back and erosion or of sedimentation and accretion). Information should be tabulated on the environmental factors that sustain or constrain the mangrove ecosystem (patterns and rates of flow of fresh and brackish water, salinity levels, sediment gains and losses, nutrient budgets, sources of pollution) and on the geo-morphological and ecological features associated with mangrove expansion or contraction.

2. Quantities and direct economic values of mangrove forest and fisheries resources are fairly well known. The distribution of the benefits of these resources (e.g. as used for subsistence by people living in and near these forests, or the basis for employment of people in and around the mangrove area -e.g. in transporting, processing, and selling mangrove products) and the value of ecological effects (e.g. coastline protection, breeding grounds for fish caught in the mangrove area and elsewhere) have not been estimated. The distribution of economic benefits and costs of replacement of the environmental functions of the mangrove-forest ecosystem should be estimated and included in cost/risk/benefit calculations of alternative plans for management or development.

3. The socio-economic condition of mangrove residents is known from only a few studies, which were presented in the workshop. More extensive information is needed concerning the numbers of people living in, and directly or indirectly dependent on, mangrove resources. This information should include estimates of demographic rates and their determinants, including family planning, in-and out-migration, and the origins, destinations, and motivations of migrants, and should also include estimates of the level and distribution of income and access to infrastructural services among dwellers in the mangrove zone.

4. Marketing patterns should be studied, including access to markets and organization and terms of trade (e.g. distance and transportation to markets, trade through middlemen or entrepreneurs, level of return on investment, interest charges) to provide a basis for assessing who will benefit from specific proposed development in and around the mangrove areas.

C. Specific Recommendations

The following specific recommendations are made for developing a plan for zoning land use in mangrove areas, making use of the philosophy and data outlined above.

1. Zones should be outlined for the following types of activities:

(a) Conservation, including the protection of natural and relatively undisturbed mangrove ecosystems as samples of those occurring in Thailand. The conservation zones will maintain species and genetic diversity and provide areas for scientific research and for education, recreation, and cultural interest. At the same time they will provide coastline protection and breeding grounds and shelter for fish and shellfish. Conservation zones should be declared mangrove reserves and managed appropriately. Mangrove areas designated for educational purposes should be located as near as possible to centres of population and transportation to ensure that they are well used. Additional reserves should be designated in order to preserve genetic diversity and seed stock, including the full range of environmental zonation required for sustained regeneration of the mangrove-forest types represented in Thailand.
(b) Management for sustained yield, primarily for timber production, using harvesting and reforestation methods that minimize environmental impact. Where appropriate, this may be accomplished while at the same time increasing the speed of regeneration and the proportion of timber trees. Concurrently, such areas will serve as breeding grounds and shelter for fish and shellfish and will continue to provide shoreline protection.
(c) Management for sustained yield, primarily for fisheries, maintaining a habitat that sustains the population of fish and crustaceans that can be harvested in the mangrove area and in adjacent estuarine, lagoonal, or marine waters. Such areas will continue to provide areas for growth or regrowth of forest species and for coastline protection, as well as to serve as breeding grounds and shelters for fish and shellfish. In practice it should often be possible to combine management for both fisheries and forestry.
(d) Conversion of mangrove areas for other uses, such as aquaculture (fish and shrimp ponds), salt farms, agriculture, urban or industrial development. All these uses require clearing and destruction of mangrove ecosystems. Because of the destructive nature of this form of land use, zoning for this purpose should be kept to a minimum, preferably on sites that have already been converted. Because extensive conversion of mangroves to shrimp or fish ponds destroys breeding grounds for larvae, which are an essential resource for the continued productivity of these farms, coastal zone planning should attempt to locate such activities inland from the coastline. As much as possible, mangroves should be retained for their multiple uses as outlined above.
(e) Waste disposal. Use of mangrove areas for disposal of urban and industrial waste and overburden from dredging and mining should be discouraged. Where waste-disposal and mining activities occur in mangrove areas, the damaged mangrove vegetation and natural drainage patterns should be restored when the mining is completed. Costs of reforestation should be included in cost/benefit calculations of mining operations.
(f) Reforestation. Reforestation should be planned where mangroves have been badly damaged by waste disposal, including reconstruction of appropriate drainage and replanting. Research in Thailand has already demonstrated the feasibility of mangrove reforestation.

2. An appropriate schedule of fees or taxes should be charged in order to discourage conversion of mangrove areas into areas exclusively for fish or shrimp ponds, salt farms, or waste dumps. Funds collected from this source should be used to finance the reforestation of mangroves in previously converted areas that have been abandoned. Taxes will also have the effects of assigning the costs of development directly to the beneficiaries and discouraging development for single, exclusive uses.

3. Plans for land-use zoning in the mangrove areas should take account of the socio-economic condition of people who live in settlements within or close to the mangrove area and who are wholly or partly dependent on mangrove resources for their livelihood. Areas in which there are already villages may be allocated for forestry or fisheries development, but should ordinarily not be allocated for conservation, so as to avoid conflicts between the villagers and government officials.

4. To facilitate effective planning, laws and regulations should be revised to deal with the specific conditions and issues of mangrove management and to eliminate gaps and conflicts in existing legislation and regulations.

5. Laws and regulations should be backed by an enforcement mechanism, with sufficient officers trained for enforcement, together with the necessary support equipment, including vehicles and boats, to enable them to carry out their responsibilities.

6. Widespread education is necessary to ensure public support for legislation and to enforce regulations controlling land use in mangrove areas. Targets for special educational efforts include those who live in and near mangrove areas and public officials, administrators, and legislators whose work concerns mangrove areas. Methods for education should include: the integration of examples from mangrove ecology into primary- and secondary-school biology courses, the training and use of extension officers for mangrove areas, the presentation on radio or television of information for people who live in or near the mangroves, and the aforementioned establishment of mangrove educational areas in the form of botanical gardens or conservation zones accessible from centres of population. Educational programmes should emphasize the ecological and economic value of mangrove ecosystems as a national resource and should help to generate support for, compliance with, and enforcement of regulations protecting the mangroves.

7. Specific steps should be taken to ensure that residents of mangrove-area villages benefit from developments that take place in these areas. For example, where surveys indicate it is feasible, adjacent waters should be used for shellfish or caged fish culture to increase subsistence or cash income for these people.

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