I was recently invited by the Wildlife Institute of India (with funding from GIZ India) to visit the Andaman Islands, a 2.5 hour flight east from Chennai. The trip was primarily to workshop a draft approach that I had developed to assist the Indians to better assess the management effectiveness of their MPAs. Together with Indian scientists, MPA managers and several experienced evaluators of management effectiveness, we workshopped what I had drafted.
My draft framework built on an IUCN framework that the Indians had used previously to assess management effectiveness in their Tiger Reserves. The Indians recognised that their existing approach was very subjective and not what they required for their coastal and marine areas.
The primary workshop for this trip was held in Port Blair, the main population centre in the Andamans. This area was hit very hard by the 2004 Indian Ocean/Indonesian tsunami and it is estimated that 18,000 lives were lost in the Andamans.
The Andamans has amazing biodiversity and only about 35 of the 570+ islands are inhabited (but that’s still about 1 million people) with many pristine islands fringed by coral reefs. The Andaman and Nicobar islands form a distinct ecoregion with high levels of endemics and several populations of global significance (e.g. leatherback turtles).
My Indian colleagues involved in this project are all hard working, extremely competent, very friendly and appreciative of my efforts, so that is what keeps me willing to put in the effort. I have learnt a lot as to what will work there (and what won’t work) and while the Indians recognise a lot of what we have done in Australia is useful, it does need their considerable tweaking for their MPAs, consequently it has been a learning experience on all sides.
I had previously provided the Indians with a series of draft marine-focused checklists and proformas to try to:
- ensure they were thinking comprehensively about marine and coastal issues (values, threats, uses etc) when answering the questions in the framework (as most of their MPA managers have come from Forestry backgrounds);
- allow them to objectively prioritise what they should be addressing through a series of simple assessments and scoring; and
- enable them to benchmark themselves against what might be considered ‘best practice’ in Indian MPAs.
However, my draft definitely needed a face-to-face workshop to walk them through it so they could understand what I was proposing – and the Andamans workshop was useful to refine my draft Qs and proformas.
After the Andamans, we flew to Dehradun (via Calcutta and Delhi) with the aim to have a second workshop at the Wildlife Institute (this didn’t eventuate due to another event) but we did spend further time refining the framework.
India is a fascinating place but it does have a lot of challenges – assuming this framework is implemented a number of times (which is what they have done in the Tiger reserves), managers and decision-makers will hopefully be able to see some progression as they become more effective in their management.
I would be very keen to see more of the Andaman’s as most areas I did see appeared to be in pretty good condition. However, I did not get to the Nicobar Islands (it’s hard to get permission), but parts of the Andaman’s along with parts of Nicobar, are probably worthy for consideration for World Heritage listing.
I have more or less completed what I was contracted by GIZ India to do, but having now returned to Townsville, I will continue to work with them (via email and skype) to finalise the task.
Stay tuned for further updates at this project progresses….
Day, JC (2016) Assessing Management Effectiveness Evaluation (MEE) for Indian Coastal and Marine Protected Areas. Draft Guidance document prepared for the Wildlife Institute of India and GIZ India, 100 pp incl. 30 Annexures
Hockings, Leverington and Cook (2015) ‘Protected area management effectiveness’, Chapter 28 in Worboys, Lockwood, Kothari, Feary and Pulsford (Eds) Protected Area Governance and Management, pp. 889–928, ANU Press, Canberra. Available at: http://press.anu.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/CHAPTER28.pdf
Hockings, Stolton, Leverington, Dudley and Courrau (2006). Evaluating Effectiveness: A framework for assessing management effectiveness of protected areas. 2nd edition. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. xiv + 105 pp. Available at: https://portals.iucn.org/library/efiles/documents/PAG-014.pdf
Mathur, Singh and Ansari (2015) Management Effectiveness Evaluation (MEE) of National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries in India. Revised Technical Manual for MEE of PAs I India, 2015-16. Wildlife Institute of India. 33pp.