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ENVIRONMENT REPORT – World Parks Congress - 2003-09-26

Broadcast: September 26, 2003

This is Bob Doughty with the VOA Special English Environment Report.

Three-thousand activists, scientists, community leaders and government officials attended the fifth World Parks Congress. The ten-day conference ended last week in Durban, South Africa. It is held every ten years by the World Conservation Union.

Delegates learned of success in meeting a goal to expand protected areas. More than ten percent of the surface of Earth is now officially protected. A World Conservation Union official said this progress was the result of agreements at the last congress, in Caracas, Venezuela.

But an official of Conservation International called the system far from complete. He said tropical islands especially face a severe threat from expanding populations of humans. Less than one percent of the area of the world's oceans is protected.

Delegates approved thirty-two proposals in the Durban Accord and Action Plan. The measures are designed to support three basic ideas. One is the importance of gaining the cooperation of people who live near protected areas. Another is the recognition that protected areas do more than protect species. They also provide services to the environment like clean water.

And the third idea is to recognize that administrators of protected areas need guidance, training and other tools to reach their goals.

Some nations announced plans to increase the amount of protected areas. Madagascar announced plans for a major increase. Senegal declared its first protected areas for fisheries and other marine life.

And the Brazilian state of Amapa said it is linking protected areas to form a new ten-million kilometer area. It will cover the world’s largest tropical rainforest park, and will be a little larger than Portugal.

Other announcements were also made in Durban. South Africa, for example, said it would excuse protected areas from land taxes. This past April, South Africa announced plans to establish five new national parks.

Other groups at the meeting promised money, supplies or technical expertise for conservation efforts. The World Conservation Union, the Nature Conservancy and WWF International announced a joint effort against forest fires. They call it a Global Fire Partnership. They say it aims to prevent the kind of destructive fires that happened earlier this year in North America, Europe and other areas of the world.

This VOA Special English Environment Report was written by Caty Weaver. This is Bob Doughty.