Photo: UN-REDD Programme Myanmar
In May 2018, the Union parliament passed the “Conservation of Biodiversity and Protected Areas Law”, which replaced the old “Protection of Wildlife and Conservation of Natural Areas Law” of 1994. The old law had widely been considered as restrictive and outdated, but how does the new law differ, particularly in relation to implementation of REDD+?
There are major changes found in chapter IV of the law, which deals with protected areas, that are significant for REDD+. Firstly, a much greater role for local communities is enabled through the law. Most significantly, paragraph 8 recognizes “Community Protected Areas” as a category of protected area. Paragraph 17 (g) also requires the Forest Department to provide “technical coordination and support for management of Community Protected Areas”. Paragraph 13 (e) also allows the Director General to “allow co-management … in collaboration [with the] local community to maintain a balance between sustainable socioeconomic development of local communities and biodiversity conservation”, while 13 (g) provides for the definition of “buffer zones to allow … local communities socio-economic development activities and ecotourism development activities without having adverse impacts on the core zone”. These clauses apply to all protected areas, not only community protected areas.
The second major development is the provision in paragraph 13 (d) for the Director General to “determine a system for Payment for Ecosystem Services derived from the ecosystems within a Protected Area”. Although the law provides no other details on how this might work, together with the provisions for ecotourism mentioned above, it opens the door to communities being able to generate income for the ecosystem services provided by community protected areas, or other co-managed protected areas.
The new law also establishes the position of park warden – an official of the Forest Department, whose roles include:
- mobilizing the public to participate in conservation through public education and awareness raising;
- managing the buffer zone focusing on local community livelihood development;
- reporting back to higher authorities on land use conflicts and other conflicts;
- coordinating and providing technical support for co-management of the protected area in collaboration with local communities
These are rather substantive roles, so appropriate training of park wardens in these functions will be essential.
Finally, chapter IX establishes penalties for legal infringements. Extracting or destroying any kind of wild plant which, under the old law, could incur a fine of 30,000 kyat, may now incur a fine of up to 1,000,000 kyat or up to 5 years’ imprisonment (paragraph 40). Whilst still rather modest penalties, they may serve as a more realistic deterrent to those causing deforestation in protected areas.
So the new law provides opportunities for more effective conservation of forests while recognizing the rights and the potential roles of local communities. It is now up to REDD+ stakeholders to take steps to ensure that these opportunities are seized by contributing to the effective implementation of the law.