Limited Access Essential for Wetland Preservation
By Bae Ji-sook
There have always been clashes between local residents longing for economic benefits from natural resources and environmentalists seeking to restrict public access to areas unaffected by human activity leading to the debate of development over conservation.
Dr. Jan Kvet, Czech ecology expert and this year's Ramsar Award winner, found the answer and halfway point in sustainable tourism.
``I do understand both sides ― you could not appreciate an unspoiled environment if you feel you are not benefiting from it and you could also fear that human access could ruin the natural habitat,'' he said in an interview with The Korea Times.
He suggested tourism organizers set zoning systems ― access restricted area; access only admitted areas and economic activity-permissible areas.
Animals will be strictly protected in access restricted areas. People will not be able to see untouched regions at all.
For the partially admitted areas, people will be seeing a natural habitat but will not be able to set up shops or other facilities, he said. Only in the zones where business is partially allowed would they be able to earn money, he said.
This gradual opening of a wetland will give access to visitors from all around the world and provide income to local governments and residents. ``In this way we could tell the future generations about the wetlands, too,'' he said. ``Of course we will need some moderation as well as supervision at the same time,'' he added.
Kvet explains that apart from peat storing carbon, wetlands do a great deal in preventing climate change, which makes preserving the area even more important.
``I say in some sense climate change is a natural part of earth's life cycle. But in other cases, human's draining the wetlands or desertification as well as overheating is also speeding up the phenomenon,'' he said. He said wetlands function as an air conditioning system, preventing the surrounding areas from getting overheated aside from preventing flooding.
``There were times when the value of wetlands wasn't properly appreciated in the Czech Republic, too. But with Korea having good access to the ocean and abundant water, I see it is hopeful,'' he said.
Kvet is mostly known for carrying out researches on Brno and Trebon fish resevoirs in his country. According to the Ramsar organizers, he encouraged a close cooperation between Ramsar and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Man and Biosphere Programme.