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The Rise of Privatization of Protected Areas

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Protected areas, as we all know, play a very vital role in the lives of any living organism. This is so because these protected areas functions as the living entity’s source of food as well as provides shelter and other basic necessities of even nature. However, the purpose of the protected areas is not only confined within these bounds due to the fact that it has several other functions. Likewise, there exist certain laws and public policies that govern its usage.

            For the purpose of this paper, the author aims to discuss the importance of protected areas as well as provide a background on the existing laws and public policies that govern its usage. Likewise, it is also the objective of the author to discuss the present predicament of protected areas as well as the issue of privatization and its effects to the said area classification understudy. The author also aims to give his insights on the rise of privatization of protected areas.

            Protected areas, as defined by any lexicon, would refer to either a land or sea area that is declared to be of significant environmental and cultural value. Thus its protection, maintenance, as well as the management of its constituents become a primary responsibility of not only the government of any country but also the country’s people.

Management and protection schemes being used for the maintenance and improvement of the said areas are in accordance with legal means as stipulated by the existing laws and public policies that govern it. Some examples of protected areas would include Golden Highlands, Kalkfontein Dam, Maria Moroka, Mahushe Shongwe, Agusan Marsh, and Wichita Mountains, which can be found in member states of South Africa, Philippines, and the United States, respectively (UN List of Protected Areas, 1997).

            Protected areas actually have several categories to wit: Strict Nature Reserve/ Wilderness Area, National Park, Natural Monument, Habitat/Species Management Area, Protected Landscape/Seascape, and Managed Resource Protected Areas.

            Those areas that falls within the classification of Strict Nature Reserve/ Wilderness area are usually those protected areas that are comprised of high biodiversity ecosystems, areas that are considered of great national importance, and or those areas that have been classified as a shelter for endangered ecosystems. Thus, these protected areas under the said classification are primarily managed for the purpose of scientific and or wilderness protection. Likewise, public access to the said places is also strictly prohibited (Cruz, 2001).

            National Parks, on the other hand, is another classification of protected areas that includes any tract of land that has been declared as public property by any national government for the purpose of its preservation and development. The famous St. Paul’s Subterranean Park in Palawan, Philippines and the Namaqua Park of South Africa are actually examples of national parks. These areas are being managed mainly for the preservation and protection of ecosystems contained by it. Also, public access is allowed. Hence, recreation activities may be conducted (Cruz, 2001).

            As for Natural monuments, this particular type of protected areas would refer to those areas that has significant natural and cultural feature. These areas are being managed mainly for conservation purposes.

            Habitat/ Species management areas pertains to those protected areas that are subject to management schemes that would aid in the conservation of various species as well as their habitats.

            Protected landscapes/ seascapes and managed resource area, in contrast with the other categories, are those that are managed for conservation and recreation and to ensure the sustainable use of ecosystems, respectively.

            Taking into account the management categories and functions of the various types of protected areas, let us now examine its present predicament as well as the issues and concerns entailed by managing the said natural resource.

            With the growing awareness on the importance of protected areas and its constituents as well as the great need and promotion of the sustainable use of natural resources, ecotourism as a management approach for conservation, preservation, protection, and utilization of resources has continuously gained popularity.  Realizing the economic benefits derived from the said management approach with the aid of licenses, entry fees and other pecuniary dues, economic growth became possible.

Moreover, with the increasing demand for recreational activities, further increase in the potential economic growth is seen. Thus more and more people participate through investments on ecotourism activities. Likewise, new jobs have been created for the people. This is actually true for countries in South Africa to wit: Zimbabwe and Uganda, wherein people living near the areas were hired as rangers, camping staff etc (Vieta, 1999).

            As more and more people realized the high potential for economic development and growth in ecotourism and other management schemes of even nature, it can be noted that there has also been an increase in international investments. However, it can be noted that there is a tendency for revenue leakages since the country’s net income level is computed via deducting first the expenditures entailed by foreign exchanges (Vieta, 1999).

            Another concern attached to international ecotourism is the effective and efficient execution of management programs for ecotourism sites. It cannot be gainsaid that in developing countries maintenance, conservation, preservation, as well as protection measures are difficult to strictly implement. This is so due to political and financial concerns.

To illustrate, in countries like the Philippines, there has been a difficulty in strictly implementing conservation, preservation, protection, and maintenance measures. This is brought about by factors such as: the national government does not have enough funds to finance environmental projects, corruption occurring in various government channels, and the like, which have actually resulted to slow development of the country as well as the occurrence of illegal logging, encroaching, and other illegal activities of even nature (Pulhin, 2000).

            Social acceptance of conservation, protection, preservation, maintenance initiatives, can also be considered an issue. This is actually true for the groups of people who consider the natural resources as sacred (Contreras, 1997).

            In response to the various issues and concerns brought about by management approaches such as ecotourism and the like, privatization has become an alternative tool.

            How does privatization is used in addressing various management issues of protected areas?

            Privatization, as defined by any lexicon, would refer to that process of transferring of public control or ownership to private enterprises. It is also referred to as the process of delimitation or excluvism (Random House Dictionary, 1998).

            In most cases, privatization of protected areas is taken from a negative perspective. This is so due to factors such as: (1) possible of occurrence environmental degradation, (2) corruption, and (3) capitalization (Business Day, 2003). However, we should also look at the benefits that can be derived from it. It should be noted that with privatization the problem on revenue leakages could be addressed. This can be made possible by enabling the local industries to participate in ecotourism projects.

Likewise, with privatization the communities are able to earn for themselves making development as well as improvement on water sanitation and healthy living possible for the people that comprises it.  Also, with privatization more jobs are made available to people, increase in the awareness of the significance of natural resources is made possible as well as the promotion of the sustainable usage of resources. Other concerns such as illegal activities may be monitored effectively and efficiently because there is more people available to man or guard protected areas. Thus preventing if not minimizing the occurrence of illegal activities (McFee, 1999).

            Lastly, with the participation of local communities, acceptance of environmental projects such as ecotourism and the like can be made easily.

            In totality, it can be said that privatization of protected areas is not bad at all. It can actually aid in the conservation, protection, preservation, and maintenance of the environment because such tasks involves wide participation among individuals of the society. Likewise, it enables the realization of economic development and growth at a relatively faster rate. Hence, it can be said that privatization may actually be the key to save the environment.


1997 UN List of Protected Areas. http://www.unep-wcmc.org.

Buisness Day, 2003 Conservation versus privatization (September 10).

Contreras, Antonio. General Forestry. University of the Philippines at Los Baños, 1997.

Cruz, Rex Victor. Lecture on Forest Resources Management. University of the Philippines at Los Baños, 2001.

McFee, A. “Selling nature to save it?” 1999.

Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, 2nd edition. New York: Random House Inc., 1998.

Pulhin, John. Lecture on Social Forestry and Forest Governance. University of the Philippines at Los Baños, 2000.

Vieta, Frances E. “Ecotourism propels development”, African Recovery, Vol. 13 Nos. 2-3. United Nations, 1999.

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