Challenges of Biopiracy: Implementing Community Based Ecotourism (CBET) in the Sri Lankan context

H.I.G.C. Kumara

Abstract


Abstract
Protecting the right of the local community/country to use their own genetic resources
available in a particular area is an important element of environmental and biodiversity
conservation. However, one of the biggest biodiversity conservation challenges faced by
southern peripheral countries is biopiracy and related issues. Community based ecotourism
(CBET) is a well-established concept and its implementation is an important component in many
regional development strategies. This research argues that though CBET which originated as a
western concept has been successfully applied in number of projects, it generates biopiracy
challenges in its implementation when CBET operates within different geo-political, economic
and cultural contexts. This research examines such challenges to CBET initiatives in the
Sinharaja world heritage site, Sri Lanka. A qualitative-inductive research methodology has
principally guided this research to examine the socio-cultural and socio-economic context of
biopiracy issues. A total of 293 participants have informed this research including 193
interviews. A critical discourse analysis (CDA) method is used to examine both primary
qualitative data collected through participant and direct observation, interviews and secondary
data. One of the main findings is that despite plans being developed at a community level, in
wider context, challenges of biopiracy related to superimposed capitalism contest CBET
ideologies. Superimposed capitalism results in individualistic and competitive behaviours that
undermine collaborative and responsible community approach. Presently, smuggling out of
Wallapatta plant (Gyrinops walla) and gathering of Spotted bowfinger gecko (Cyrtodactylus
triedra) which is an endemic nocturnal reptile species have become profitable in KudawaSinharaja
site and a growing number of biopirates venture into here. Local community of this site
takes risks in forest genetic resources smuggling because it provides them with the means of
earning much money within a short period. Regardless of all prevalent laws and regulations
against bioprospecting, biopiracy, biological resource and wildlife smuggling, authorities have
still failed to control these activities in this site because of the support given to bio-pirates by the
local community. The research concludes that CBET is an appropriate pathway for tourism
development in Sri Lanka but recognition of biopiracy issues associated with superimposed
capitalism is required and needed to be addressed. A well-defined monitoring system and an
effective legal framework to control adverse effects are important for achieving CBET goals
while confronting biopiracy.

Keywords: Biopiracy, Community Based Eco-tourism, Superimposed capitalism.


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Journal of Tropical Forestry and Environment,

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