Ream National Park, Cambodia: Balancing the local opportunity costs of wetland protection
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L. Emerton, R. Seilava and H. Pearith


This case study describes an attempt to assess the economic value of local resource use in Preah Sihanouk (Ream) National Park, a coastal protected area in Cambodia which is piloting both a management planning process and community approaches to conservation. The study aimed to demonstrate the high reliance of community livelihoods on park resources and to quantify the high local opportunity costs of switching from activities that degrade wetland biodiversity. The study underlined the importance of factoring community concerns into park management planning, as well as integrating protected area concerns into socioeconomic (coastal) development planning in surrounding Provinces, Districts and Communes.

Main Results and Conclusions:
  • An overview of the description of the park is as follows: “The area in and around the park is an important fishery area used by both local communities and by commercial trawlers and push nets, and also supports some level of tourist activity. Large parts of the mangrove area have been cleared for aquaculture developments, including prawn and crab farming. It is currently estimated that over one third of the Park’s area has been heavily modified or transformed by farming, logging, mangrove cutting and clearance for aquaculture, charcoal burning and other resource exploitation activities (IUCN 1997)”
  • Mangroves are facing extinction in the area: “Mangroves constitute a particularly important set of park resources, and are also one of the most endangered ecosystems in Ream and other parts of Cambodia’s coast.”
  • Ecosystem services offered by the mangrove forests in Ream used by the local people are firewood, medicinal plants, construction materials, and a source of habitat for fisheries.
  • There was debate as to whether or not a one time clear cutting (deforestation) operation would yield more benefit than preserving the mangrove ecosystem.
  • The results of the mangrove cost benefit evaluation are as follows: “Ream’s mangroves yield subsistence goods worth almost $600,000 a year, and generate an additional $300,000 a year through the provision of ecosystem services such as storm protection and prevention of coastal erosion in areas surrounding the park. With a overall value of almost $1 million a year and net value of more than $500 per hectare, this is far more than either the one-off income generated through clear-cutting (De Lopez et al 2001) or the returns from conversion to crab and prawn farming (Bann 1997)”.
  • There is also an indirect value of mangrove conservation: “In fact many more economic losses would occur from mangrove clearance, such as the damage to houses, infrastructure, farmland, employment, markets and general local welfare that result from the loss of vital environmental functions and ecological services. In Southern Thailand, the economic benefits of mangroves in terms of coastline protection have been estimated to have a value of between $76.5/ha/year (Sathirathai 1998) and $165/ha/year (Christensen 1982), carbon sequestration benefits $2.2/ha, and mangrove storm protection functions have been valued at $32/ha in Koh Kong Province (Bann 1997). Taking into account these indirect economic benefits increases the annual economic value of conserving Ream’s mangroves to $900,000 a year.”
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