The term "Payment for Ecosystem Services" did not ring a bell at all when we came across it for the first time. But confusion made it all the more intriguing. Several questions sprang to mind, including: How can an ecosystem provide services? What are ecosystem services? Who must pay for them? Why? And how?
Local villagers and Bedo staff surveyed a forest at Ban Hua Lao in Chiang Mai for a Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) project.
Payment for Ecosystem Services, or PES, is still new in Thailand. One public organisation that handles PES is the Biodiversity-Based Economy Development Office, or Bedo. The office's four major missions are proposing biodiversity-based economic policies to the government, creating and promoting nature-friendly products and services by local communities, managing knowledge of the biodiversity-based economy, and promoting the general public's participation in using such products and services sustainably.
Bedo president Petipong Pungbun Na Ayudhya said PES amounted to compensating for what humans took from the environment.
"For example, ecosystem services are what the forest gives us, such as reducing carbon dioxide and providing watersheds and humidity. We must estimate the economic value of these things and make payment accordingly," he said.
According to Bedo, PES can be undertaken using economic tools to gauge the value of the ecosystems' natural resources and environs and encouraging users to make payments to caretakers.
The aims are to sustainably preserve the ecosystem services and benefits and to boost the morale of caretakers, leading to effective work and better living conditions.
The benefits reaped from ecosystem services vary according to the different conditions of the area. There are five major kinds of ecosystem services _ providing good-quality water, protecting biodiversity, preserving the beauty of natural conservation areas, carbon retention and absorption, and conserving soil quality.
A good PES system requires the continual provision of services on a voluntary basis under clear principles by at least one service provider or seller for at least one buyer or beneficiary.
According to Bedo, research by Rachel Millar, Lawren de la Laye and Carina Bracer estimates that the value of PES involving governments was US$4 billion (122 billion baht) by 2010 and would rise to $7 billion by 2020 and increase continually to $15 billion by 2050. According to the World Conservation Union's report, titled Pay: Establishing Payments for Watershed Services (2006), PES projects elsewhere in the world include:
In Australia, the Downstream Farmers Association pays $45 per hectare per year for the government and upstream landowners to undertake reforestation on the Murray-Darling Basin in order to control the salinity of soil and provide a clean water supply.
In France, Perrier Vittel, a mineral water company, pays $230 per hectare per year to farmers upstream for reducing production factors to control water quality and provide a clean water supply.
In the United States, the Department of Agriculture as a buyer pays $125 per hectare per year to farmers for soil preservation.
In Costa Rica, Fonafifo, the national forestry office, and Energia Global, a hydroelectricity company, pay upstream landowners $48 per hectare per year for conserving watershed forests and reforestation in Senapiqui.
The PES principle has been widely implemented. One clear example was the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP-10) in Nagoya, which stressed the importance of evaluating the economic costs and payments for ecosystem services.
Ecosystem conservation, revitalisation criteria and the PES principle were applied to the Aichi Strategic Plan to increase benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services for mankind.
In Thailand, however, experiences involving the PES principle have been limited to small research projects. Nonetheless, the principle can be used in developing a biodiversity-based economy. This will boost the potential, morale and incomes of local communities which take care of natural resources.
"We are about to start PES in Krabi. A hotel is interested in the PES in an area called Koh Klang. Local villagers and tourism business operators there will take care of the island while the hotel will be a buyer. Beneficiaries must pay annual fees," Petipong said.
According to him, Bedo proposed the project, but the villagers and business people must talk and work out the agreements themselves. Caretakers will issue rules on how to use natural resources and ecosystem services and how to preserve the quality of the environment. There will be parameters to evaluate outputs and outcomes.
"This will be the first PES project in Thailand. Anything else is hiring people to grow trees in forest plantations or CSR [Corporate Social Responsibility]," he noted.
Somsak Kohklang is president of the Passenger Boat and Motorcycle Taxi Operators Club in Klong Prasong subdistrict, Krabi, which has 87 boat and motorcycle taxi drivers. He said the participating villagers and business operators are preparing to mobilise funds to support their activities, such as planting trees in degraded mangrove forests, collecting garbage from land and waterways and trimming the mangroves along the stream.
"We have been doing this for about a year since Bedo came to educate us about eco-tourism and PES. While waiting for tourists who are sightseeing the island or trekking, we will collect garbage once we spot some. But we will make arrangements to trim the branches of trees in the mangrove forests. A few boats will be assigned to each pier," he added. According to Somsak, eco-tourism in Klong Prasong focuses on three villages covering about 10km from Krabi Port to the cape. Sightseeing tourists usually take a 90 minute boat ride around the island of mangrove forests. Some others come to plant trees and learn about local ways of life, such as rice growing and fishing.
"Eco-tourism is good for earning us a sustainable way of life. We have been doing this since 2003, but opted to do it seriously under principles since Bedo came here last year to educate us about proper sightseeing at Klong Prasong. We must do it seriously, otherwise, natural resources will be spoiled and no tourists will come here," he said.
Bedo business development officer Rujira Pongpluthong said: "We are trying to adjust CSR into PES. However, we have yet to come up with figures for payments per rai per baht."
On Aug 30 last year, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on PES in Klong Prasong was signed by Islanda Eco Village Resort, the operators of tour boats, motorcycle taxis and restaurants and the Tambon Klong Prasong Administration Organisation.
The subdistrict's Mangrove Forest Conservation Club will take care of the forests. The next step is to establish a PES fund for the club to do the task and to work out how to collect money for the ecosystem restoration plan.
In the meantime, several other projects are taking shape. The Provincial Waterworks Authority's Regional Office No.9, which oversees tap waterworks in eight northern provinces, agreed to support the construction of water retention dykes in the Ban Hua Lao community in Chiang Mai's Thung Jor watershed area. Currently, Bedo is trying to make matches between earmarked areas and several interested organisations, including the Cha Raming tea company, CP Produce, CP Foods, Tipco Foods and Ayinotakara Company. The targets include the watershed areas of Mae Sa Waterfall, the Mae Taeng River Basin, an area in Ang Thong, and the Nam Meed watershed area of Nan province.
Two PES pilot projects _ Klong Prasong plus one in Chiang Mai's Thung Jor _ have been designated so far.
The Bedo president knows his office must ensure the pilot projects' effectiveness. The MOU for Krabi has been signed, and while details on payment are still being worked out both sides are determined to see it through.
Suthichai Namuang, headman of Ban Bang Khanoon, Moo 4, in Klong Prasong, who leads the Mangrove Forest Conservation Club, said the participating groups will start with planting trees and releasing marine animals into the sea next month.
The club, which has about 100 members, has been working for more than a decade to protect and conserve the mangrove forests covering more than 5,200 rai. The forests have abundant wildlife and marine animals along with Khao Kanab Nam, a symbol of Krabi province.
Lately, the group has found it easier to work since more villagers have been cooperative. There has been less illegal logging in the forests while local fishermen have opted for using proper fishing tools and raising fish in containers called krachang.
He believes the participating resort and business operators can help by contributing money to the subdistrict's mangrove conservation fund since the annual budget for the task is limited to tens of thousands of baht.
"Without the forests, it is difficult for our community to exist," the village headman said.
For more information, visit www.bedo.or.th.
For more information, visit www.bedo.or.th.
The sea at Ban Koh Klang, Klong Prasong, Krabi.
About the author
- Writer: Pichaya Svasti
Position: Life Writer