Countries of the Region
Afghanistan,Bangladesh,Bhutan,Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Hong Kong, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Korea Republic, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Macua, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines,Singapore,Sri Lanka,Thailand,Timor Leste,Viet Nam
WCPA has been particularly active in the East Asia region, since 1993. The structure for WCPA in East Asia involves rotation of secretariat responsibilities between the countries in the region. During the period from 1993 to 1996, the WCPA East Asia Secretariat was hosted by China through the Academy of Sciences from 1996 to 1999, the Secretariat was hosted by Japan, through the Japan Wildlife Research Centre and the Department of Environment and from 2000 to 2002, the WCPA East Asia will be hosted by South Korea. The rotation of the WCPA secretariat occurs at the three yearly East Asia Protected Areas Conference, with the last Conference being held in Seoul, South Korea, in September, 1999. The next three yearly East Asia Protected Areas Conference is scheduled to be held in Taiwan, Province of China in March of 2002. See below for more information.
WCPA East Asia has developed a regional action plan for protected areas in East Asia. This plan outlines the key protected areas issues in the region and defines 13 priority projects. The Government of Japan, through its Environment Agency, generously agreed to support 4 of these priority projects:
Project 1: Guidelines for financing protected areas in East Asia. This resulted in the preparation of a document on guidelines for financing protected areas in East Asia,
Project 2: Exchange programme for protected areas. This project component supports the participation of East Asian participants at relevant working groups and conferences in the region related to protected areas. An option paper for the implementation of an exchange programme is also being developed for the East Asia region.
Project 3: Tourism and protected area. This project resulted in the preparation of guidelines on tourism and protected areas in East Asia, in 2001. This is based on practical case studies within the region and will offer guidance for the future development of tourism in East Asia.
Project 4: Directory of protected area personnel and organisations. A directory of protected areas personnel and organisation in East Asia
In addition to these priority projects, the WCPA East Asia hosts an annual meeting on a protected areas topic. The location for this meeting rotates among the countries within the region.
All of the above publications are available on the publication section.
For much of their long history, the peoples of East Asia have had a profound awareness of nature and of the need to conserve it. Often this was based on the aesthetic and religious values of a place or a feature, resulting in effective protection over centuries. In recent times, these traditional values have come under great pressure. Throughout the region, rapid economic development has led to massive and unprecedented changes in lifestyle. As a result, nature has come under great pressure in most of the region and much valuable biodiversity has been lost or is in danger. In response, a number of protected areas have been created in East Asia; 5.7% of the land area is currently designated as protected area as of May, 2000. A much smaller percentage of coastal water is protected, with significant marine protected areas currently established in Japan, China and South Korea. Most protected areas have been designated recently, with over 60% of protected areas designated since 1982.
Key protected areas issues include:
- Pressure associated with population density. This region is the most densely populated on earth and this poses considerable challenges for the establishment and management of protected areas. In most parts of the region the total area protected is too small, omitting important plant and animal communities. Remaining natural areas that are still unprotected face escalating pressures, which threaten the survival of plants and animals and the communities of which they are a part. Significantly, such pressures reduce the resource base necessary for sustainable economic and cultural development.
- Inadequate coverage. The coverage and degree of protection for individual sites, as well as the public appreciation of protected areas, varies greatly . There are significant gaps, particularly in relation to the conservation of wetland and marine ecosystems, as well as arid ecosystems. Conservation in key countries such as China has tended to focus on tropical and sub-tropical forest with the result that some areas, such as arid ecosystems, are much less effectively protected.
- Tourism is an important issue. In part associated with high population densities, there is an extremely high level of both domestic and international tourism to countries in the region. This inevitably focuses on protected areas and the volume of tourist use poses significant challenges to the integrity of such areas. To maintain natural values, protected areas need effective management, particularly in partnership with local communities.
- Management pressures. Protected areas in East Asia are being damaged as they becoming increasingly isolated and fragmented. There are pressures from development, resource extraction, poaching of rare animals, pollution and many other impacts that arise from a extremely high rate of economic development and an expanding human population.
China's Huangshan Mountain World Heritage site with its travertine pools
Photo: Jim Thorsell