Report by IED bureau, Bhubaneswar: Chilika development authority in collaboration with wetlands international is bringing in another new concept "allowable envelope" developed by wetlands international for sustainable management of Chilika Lake . Following is the detailed text about this new initiative by CDA.
Towards an Allowable Envelope: developing the safe operating space for the sustainable management of Chilika lake
One of the prime mandates of management of wetlands is the need to maintain the integrity of ecosystems, and to recognize their special values, functions and services. This awareness and recognition lead to the question of what is allowed in terms of disturbance to these systems, what can be done and what should be avoided. Chilika Lake being a coastal wetland these issues are more relevant at the face of Climate Change. Chilika Development Authority have been in the fore front in management of wetlands in Asia by way of adopting the most modern concepts in wetland management . Recently CDA adopted the wetland ecosystem health report card for monitoring and reporting the status of the Lake ecosystem to the wider audience in collaboration with Maryland University, USA. The “Allowable envelope; for developing a safe operating space for sustainable management of wetland” is a new concept recently developed by scientists of wetlands international. Chilika development authority have been a partner of wetlands international for quite long time.
The experts and scientists from Wetlands International headquarters, Netherlands played by Dr. Ward Hagemeijer, Dr. Taej Mundkur, Wetlands International - HQ, Netherlands & Dr. Steven de Bie, Shell International, Netherlands are coming Chilika and would have three days intense discussion and assigns workshop on 15th April 2013 at wetlands research and training centre, on this new concept of “Allowable envelope; for developing a safe operating space for sustainable management of wetland” with the scientists and experts of Chilika development authority . The experts from the WI based on the deliberation advice to define the use of wetlands resources, and the impact the wetlands can sustain without damaging the functioning of the system.
For many wetlands, if not all, the critical boundaries of wetland ecosystems are not or not fully known. Consequently, Wetlands International has difficulty advising the users of wetlands, as to what the ‘allowable envelope’ for that particular wetland. Normally the knowledge about those critical boundaries and translation into a safe operating space of wetland ecosystems within which every activity should take place and as a result has impacts that can be absorbed by the wetland ecosystem without leading to a change of that system is not available for many wetlands. This idea that every wetland ecosystem has a safe operating space, or ‘allowable envelope’ is worth further exploration. Fortunately for Chilika time series information is available which encouraged the wetlands international to come forward to help Chilika development authority for using the methodology developed by the wetlands international for defining the allowable envelope for resource use in Chilika Lake.
Chilika is a wetlands of international importance i.e. a Ramsar site. One of the strongest pillar of Ramsar Convention, is the wise use of wetland resources for its sustainable management.
Ramsar Convention defines wise use as ‘… the maintenance of ecosystem benefits/services to ensure long term maintenance of biodiversity as well as human well-being and poverty alleviation’ and the ‘wise use of wetlands’ as ‘… the maintenance of the ecological character of wetlands, achieved through the implementation of ecosystem approaches within the context of sustainable development’ .
Generally the users of wetlands are aware of the need to maintain the integrity of ecosystems, in particular wetlands, as they start to recognize their special values, functions and services. This awareness and recognition lead to the question of what is allowed in terms of disturbance to these systems, what can be done and what should be avoided. From Wetlands International users expect information and advice that can help them to define their use of wetlands, and the impact the wetlands can sustain without damaging the functioning of the system.
The Allowable Envelope: the concept
When is wise use becoming non-sustainable? Intuitively we all feel that such a situation takes place when the impact of that use damages the nature of the wetland ecosystem for a longer period of time and to a degree that benefits decline and (potential) further use is less, both qualitatively and quantitatively. In fact a transition takes place where one or more factors that collectively are the ecological ‘character’ of the system, surpass(es) a certain value, a threshold value beyond which a process starts that brings the ecosystem into a new state. What would be helpful for advising on wise use is knowing which factors are critical and what their threshold values are in the different wetland types.
Another example of a safe operating space or allowable envelop but at a different scale is that of the planetary boundaries, published by Rockström et al. (2009) . They proposed a framework of “planetary boundaries” designed to define a safe operating space for humanity as a precondition for sustainable development, with nine Earth system processes which have boundaries that, to the extent that they are not crossed, mark the safe zone for the planet.
The scientists from WI during next three days would discuss with the expert & scientists of CDA on the concept of Allowable Envelope: is it a useful concept in the domain of conservation and management of Chilka Lake ? If so, what is a proper description and definition of this concept? . The would also discuss the ecological sensitivities: what are the sensitivities of the wetland, the critical drivers, processes, etc.? . The critical values: what are the critical values of these sensitivities? Are there any threshold-type boundaries?. Identify what information is needed: what information has to be collected in order to make the above decisions transparent and science-based?.