|Ecotourism and other Services Derived from Forests in the Asia- Pacific Region: Outlook to 2010. (FAO - Forestry, 1997)|
|ANNEX - COUNTRY ECOTOURISM NOTES|
Forests have long been cleared for agriculture to feed Chinas population, and recently loggers have moved in to clear-cut for timber products (Taylor 1994). The implications for conservation can be gauged with particular reference to panda protection. Many of the reserves that protect pandas were proclaimed in the 1960s and 1970s, after clear-cutting had occurred. Unfortunately, pandas will not re-establish in recent clearcuts because of reduced bamboo supply, so clear-cutting needs to be stopped in panda habitat (Taylor 1994). This is a concrete example of conflict between production and services of forests. However, evidence suggest that it is possible for loggers and pandas to coexist, as forests of fir, hemlock, spruce and birch that were selectively cut have a thick carpet of arrow bamboo that pandas can use. Selective cutting may not harm panda habitat, particularly when tree planting is done where slopes are gentle, as that is where pandas prefer to eat (Taylor 1994).
Many forestry issues have resulted from Chinas opening up of the economy to global market forces and from the movement towards a form of private property. Chinas economy continues to grow, averaging 13% since the late 1980s, and its forest resources are coming under increasing threat (FAS Online). Production is shifting from the northeasts state-owned forests to collective owned farms in the south (FAS Online). Whilst the depletion of forest resources has aggravated erosion, desertification and stream sedimentation, the planting of the four arounds (around houses and villages, alongside roads and waterways) has provided a concrete example, at least in some areas, that reforestation has been possible.
In the more general sense of cultural dimensions to forest service maintenance, forest dwellers are seen as minority nationalities. These people have come under a state whose attitude was to develop backward peoples. Hence, it would appear that there are concerns related to the maintenance of services of forests that are founded in indigenous peoples value systems.
In recent years, China has experienced rapid expansion in tourism development and strong increases in domestic and international visitation (Bailey 1995; Xing 1993). In part, this growth has resulted from the political and economic environment encouraging a more market driven industry (Zhang 1995). Though visitation may plateau in certain international source markets, tourism overall is expected to continue its growth. In order to encourage future growth, the China National Tourism Administration will pursue tourism themes that will change each year (UPI 1997). These will begin in 1998 with the China Urban and Rural Tour promotion and will continue in 1999 with Ecotourism.
China is expecting a record 52 million tourists each year during the promotion, with expected earnings of more than US$30 billion. This growth presents a number of challenges, including the need to more widely distribute tourism (Yongwei 1995). With 90% of Chinas tourism receipts being earned in cities and an overwhelming concentration of tourism destinations in coastal regions, the partial focus on ecotourism could help decentralize the tourism industry by dispersing tourism to rural areas (Wen and Tisdell 1996). However, as in other countries, the expected growth in ecotourism will put additional pressure on natural areas in China, as discussed in Section 4.6.
China has been rated highly in ecotourism value (Herath 1996). Almost 7% of Chinas total land area is legally protected, with many of the nature reserves located in non coastal areas. Amongst the first conservationists in China were the early Taoist and Buddhist religious orders, many of which sought isolated, mountainous areas to practice principles of harmony with the environment. These traditions meant that areas surrounding religious sites were conserved while other areas in China were cleared for agriculture or other economic activities. This has led to the presence of religious and cultural sites within many of the countrys reserves. In more recent times, the growth in reservation of natural areas has been steady, with the number of nature reserves expanding from 34 in 1983 to 763 in 1993 (Han and Guo 1995). Of these, ten have been included in UNESCOs international biosphere reserve network.
Lindberg, et al. (1997) provide an overview of ecotourism in China. Ecotourism issues there include:
· Adoption of the biosphere reserve as the dominant protected area model. This model is consistent with Chinas level of population and priority on economic growth. It provides for local involvement and local economic benefits, two objectives consistent with ecotourism.
· Difficulties of coordination amongst agencies involved in nature reserves. Most reserves are under the management of the Ministry of Forestry, but several other agencies also manage reserves. Moreover, additional agencies play important supporting roles.
· Control over tourism development within reserves often rests with local government, and ultimately the communist party, rather than with the de jure management agency. This complicates efficient management and, as in the case of Dinghushan Biosphere Reserve, reduces allocation of ecotourism revenues toward conservation, environmental education, and visitor management.
· There appears to be widespread support for tourism by local communities. Residents value the benefits of job creation and the development of tourism-related infrastructure (e.g., roads and airports). Conversely, there appear to be relatively few negative impacts, perhaps because tourism has been developed only recently and because most tourism remains domestic, such that impacts resulting from pronounced cultural differences been hosts and guests have not been great. However, in some areas tourism development has led to reduced resident access to resources, which can lead to negative feelings toward tourism.
Several other issues were raised in other sections of the paper. For example, there is a general lack of interpretation and it may be difficult for sites to cater to both domestic and western visitors.