Protecting parks

2007-05-16

in Economics, The environment, The outdoors

While it is excellent to have national parks established, the difficulty with making them meaningful lies in the enforcement of rules on entry and activity within the defined territory. Even American national parks are having trouble with poachers. The problem is certain to be more acute in less affluent areas, where the impulse to protect nature is more immediately threatened by poverty. Just 14 rangers patrol the 4,200 square kilometres of the Nouabale-Ndoki national park in Congo. Technology can play a part in park management: from satellite tracking and motion sensors to networks of internet connected metal detectors looking for guns and machetes.

Ultimately, technical fixes will probably not be adequate protection in the most vulnerable areas. The reasons for this are primarily economic. There is more money to be had in exploiting the content of parks than in protecting it, and there is no incentive for local people to refrain from damaging activities and be vigilant in preventing others from doing so. As with climate change, the biggest challenge lies in creating institutional and financial structures that encourage environmentally responsible behaviour. Growing recognition of that among policy-makers and the NGO community may eventually lead to much more effective enforcement mechanisms.

This article discusses the TrailGuard metal detectors in much more detail. They sound very clever, even if they are unlikely to solve any problems in and of themselves.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Anon @ Wadh May 17, 2007 at 3:14 pm

I disagree about technology never being able to protect parks by itself. It could. Doing so would simply cost a lot more than encouraging the locals to protect it. The latter course is also a lot more ethically and politically acceptable. After all, people who live beside (or inside) parks have the most immediate connection to whatever happens there.

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