|Environmental Public Awareness Handbook - Case Studies and Lessons Learned in Mongolia (EPAP, 1999, 88 pages)|
This handbook grew out of the experiences of the Mongolian Environmental Public Awareness Programme (EPAP). The Programme began with the idea that environmental groups should be given opportunities to create public awareness campaigns focusing on environmental issues. This would encourage grass roots action, allow these groups to build their capacities as NGOs AND help protect the environment.
The response was overwhelming. NGOs, or at least interested groups, crawled out of the woodwork. The Programme quickly expanded to accommodate their interests, their enthusiasm. and their dogged desire just to participate. At the end of two years, the Programme had overseen the implementation of almost 100 small projects and the donors and government had renewed it for two more years. Clearly we were on to something. And we felt that this unique experience, and the lessons we learned, would be useful for others. Hence this handbook.
Environmental Public Awareness (EPA) and environmental public participation have a simple enough premise - awareness, understanding and action can protect the environment before agricultural practices, industrial and urban development or just human ignorance, can do it serious damage. Stopping potentially harmful human behaviour and practices before the damage is done can save money and time, as well as the environment. And simple remedial action can go a long way if initiated by those interested citizens who are sometimes at the root of the problem.
While monitoring EPA projects in the countryside in Mongolia, I hit upon the hurdle EPA faces. We were in a village called Bulgan discussing an awareness campaign with the leader of the local disaster relief officer. His main responsibility was fighting local forest fires - over 90% of which are started by human activity. He told me the budget to fight the fires was not enough, but it was all they had. Was there any money for prevention? No. Could 10% of their current budget be allocated towards awareness campaigns targeted at hunters, herders and children visiting and using the forested areas? If they prevented even a small number of these fires every year they would save money overall. He reluctantly agreed but said that the governor of the province would not agree. And he hasn't yet.
EPA, as a first step towards citizens' action and participation, has to build its legitimacy - it has to prove it can work. As environmental groups all over the world perfect their EPA strategies, and share their experiences, governments and donors will increasing support environmental awareness initiatives. But no organization can do it alone The impacts will be far greater if local organizations, local government and central governments, public agencies and aid programmes all build partnerships and work together
I hope readers will find in this handbook something that will lead us towards more successful EPA activities