Economic Valuation of the Water Resources of Select Areas of Rangamati’s Pablakhali Protected Region: A Comprehensive Approach
The remote area of Pablakhali is situated in the northeast corner of the Chittagong Hill Tracts and consists of many ponds, lakes, waterfalls and springs. It is not only home to three types of forests and over thousands of animal and plant species, but also several hundred human families (mostly fishermen and farmers). Protected Areas (PAs), like Pablakhali, have been monitored and managed by the country’s Forest Department (FD). However, in reality, these areas are not protected in their original sense, mainly due to poor focus on public involvement and ethical issues. Hence, this project aims to evaluate a valuation of this area’s selected parts with the aims to establish a detailed inventory, as well as an understanding of the dimension of water use by different stakeholders in the hilly areas; address the threats, perform capacity building, bringing financial sustainability; establish a better governing body to maintain standards and effectively manage the area; and to divert much-needed funds to perform research, acquire conservation projects and better manage Pablakhali Protected Area by involving its residents by presenting the real value (not a vague one) to the donors and government offices. The valuation will be a comprehensive one using survey tools like, structured questionnaire done in two stages (pilot and final); the first of which is complete and has proved instrumental in identifying flaws and developing/expanding the methodology and scope, and focused group discussions to identify the selected water bodies’ and its resources’ value from the human residents’ perspectives in four categories: economic benefits, consumption value, cultural importance and dependence value of select flora and fauna. Additionally, nature’s valuation will be incorporated by adding the water availability benefits for soil quality and carbon sequestration by trees. The findings will be disseminated to help the locals better manage their surroundings and propose important policy implications and changes that are required for the better management (and allocation) of the water resources for sustainable practices. Also, this research project will be a forerunner of its kind as such comprehensive valuation papers are rare and will be highly useful in the future as biodiversity and ecosystem conservation/management are soon to become even bigger issues than they are now.
Keywords - Pablakhali, Economic Valuation, Ecosystem Services, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Rangamati, Protected Areas