MEASURING VALUES FOR WETLANDS PROTECTION IN A DEVELOPING COUNTRY FROM DOMESTIC AND INTERNATIONAL CITIZEN GROUPS

Because of pressures to convert natural areas to commercial economic development uses, protecting natural areas in developing countries is a major challenge. A developing country may desire to protect natural areas, but relatively high out-of-pocket and opportunity costs of protection may pose considerable hurdles. To help protect natural areas in a developing country, the international community often gets involved; for example, providing funds to purchase and preserve natural areas such as rain forests, river corridors and wetlands. Thus, to determine the economic feasibility of protecting a particular natural area in their country, decision-makers in a developing country may be interested in measuring the economic value (e.g., willingness-to-pay) of protection on the part of both residents and nonresidents of the country. The overall purpose of this study was to test a common methodology for measuring both domestic and international citizen groups' values (willingness-to-pay) for protecting a natural area in a developing country. The natural area studied was a wetland area called the Nariva Swamp located in the developing country of Trinidad. A common contingent valuation survey was conducted both in Trinidad and the State of Georgia, USA. The survey instrument worked well in both countries demonstrating the feasibility of administering a common valuation methodology to very different citizen groups living in developing and developed countries. The Nariva Swamp in Trinidad is one of the largest freshwater wetlands in the Caribbean, supporting a diverse population of flora and fauna, including waterfowl, anacondas, and manatees. The swamp also supports recreation in the form of hunting, fishing, and ecotourism. Furthermore, subsistence rice and vegetable farming and subsistence fishing of cascadura fish and conchs occur in the swamp. However, some commercial rice production by local residents, who do not have legal ownership of land, is causing serious environmental damage to the swamp. Overuse of water due to commercial rice production with itinerant irrigation canals has increased the influx of sea water into the swamp, thereby increasing salinity of water in the swamp. If this continues, it could be devastating for flora and fauna in the swamp, local subsistence farming and fishing, and future ecotourism benefits. In order to avoid a worst-case scenario, human activities in the swamp should be balanced to provide economic benefits while protecting the ecosystem functions and services that support these benefits. Attaining such a balance requires knowledge of Nariva Swamp values and benefit-cost analyses of swamp use and management. The contingent valuation method can be applied to measure use and nonuse values of protecting natural areas. The contingent valuation survey instrument for measuring values of protecting the Nariva Swamp to Trinidad and Georgia, USA citizens was developed jointly by researchers at the University of the West Indies and the University of Georgia. The survey instrument collected data on qualitative attitudes and preferences for Nariva Swamp protection, and quantitative data to estimate willingness-to-pay (WTP) for protecting the swamp. The survey instrument was administered to a sample of general public citizens in both countries. From these data, a common valuation model was estimated and used to calculate mean WTP for Nariva Swamp protection on the part of Trinidad and Georgia citizens. The valuation model generated theoretically consistent and expected results. Trinidad respondents show a higher WTP than Georgia respondents due to greater familiarity and proximity with the Nariva swamp. In this case study, the valuation results suggest that monetary support from USA citizens for protecting the Nariva Swamp may be relatively low. Thus, the economic feasibility of protecting the swamp would likely depend mostly on a domestic analysis that compares benefits (e.g., aggregate willingness-to-pay) and costs to Trinidad citizens of protecting the swamp. Whether or not benefits to the international community should even be considered in a developing country's benefit-cost analysis of protecting a domestic natural area is open to debate and discussion. If benefits of protecting a natural area to the international community are considered by decision-makers in a developing country to be relevant and important, a question for discussion remains as to whether a different natural area in a different developing country would generate more interest and WTP for protection on the part of the international community. To obtain more insight on the causes of differences in preferences and values between developing and developed country citizens for protecting a natural area in a developing country, survey responses to a series of environmental values and attitudes questions were also analyzed. Responses to environmental value questions indicate the relative weight Trinidad and Georgia citizens place on use and nonuse values of Nariva Swamp protection. We were interested to learn if nonuse values of Nariva Swamp protection are important to Trinidad citizens, and if use values are important to Georgia citizens since part of the purpose of the overall study was to gauge the potential of the Nariva Swamp as an international ecotourism destination. Results suggest that relatively few Georgia citizens would be interested in visiting the Nariva Swamp, but very many Trinidad citizens would like to visit the swamp. Nonuse values appeared to represent a small portion of Trinidad citizens support for Nariva Swamp protection. We also compared responses from Trinidad and Georgia citizens to questions designed to assess their general environmental ethics and attitudes towards natural area protection. Research literature suggests that, generally, respondents from more economically developed countries should show a greater interest in environmental issues and natural area protection. This is due to a shift from focus on physical sustenance and safety to a broader understanding and appreciation for quality of life, based on Maslow's hierarchy of needs. However, more recent research suggests this approach could be inaccurate. The survey results provide evidence of consistent environmental ethics and natural area protection attitudes on the part of Trinidad and Georgia citizens, with some notable differences that would provide for interesting debate and discussion.


Issue Date:
2003
Publication Type:
Conference Paper/ Presentation
PURL Identifier:
http://purl.umn.edu/22009
Total Pages:
16
Series Statement:
Selected Paper




 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2017-08-24

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