Friday, March 17, 2006

Sacred Sites, Oldest Forms of Protected Areas

Sacred sites are almost certainly the oldest forms of "protected areas" and there are thought to be hundreds of thousands of them around the world contributing to global efforts to conserve biological diversity, a new WWF/ARC report reveals.

Today, many sacred natural areas and faith-based land and water management systems are under threat because of cultural breakdown, pressures on resources and poor governance. Pollution, infrastructure development, disputes over land, and a general lack of respect for the intangible values of nature are leading to degradation of areas that have sometimes been held sacred for hundreds or thousands of years.

Inclusion within official protected area systems can help to protect spiritual values, if supported by the faith communities. Protected areas containing sacred sites must however be managed sensitively to preserve both biodiversity and spiritual values. Success in co-managing for faith and nature is almost always a matter of developing effective and trusting partnerships between the different stakeholders involved.

The report Beyond Belief1 hopes to encourage conservationists and faith groups to collaborate much more closely in a bid to protect both the tangible and intangible values of natural sites. Halting the rapid loss of biodiversity is one of the key challenges facing humanity. Most religions acknowledge this, both individually and through inter-faith dialogues and statements. Beyond Belief argues that faiths already play a key conservation role, with a potential to increase their contribution much further.

Faiths, big and small, have been involved in some of the earliest forms of species and habitat protection, both by preservation of particular places as sacred natural sites and through religious-based management approaches. These form a large and mainly unrecognised network of wildlife sanctuaries.

Approaches vary between faiths. Many indigenous peoples and followers of religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Shinto, protect particular species or natural habitats because of their spiritual values. Other religions have long-standing management policies that protect natural habitats, such as the himas system under Islam or management policies on land owned by Christian churches.

For the Aboriginal Australians, sacred sites are so common and interconnected that they cover large landscapes in a complex network. Many Aboriginal creation stories are linked to particular geographical features, including rocks. Uluru, or Ayers Rock, in the central Australian desert is a particularly well known sacred site; it is also a protected area. "In a world where there is a price tag on everything it is refreshing and a little surprising to see so many places around the world protected because of their sacred values.

We believe that religions and conservation organisations must work together towards our common goal. With a fusion of faith-based management approaches and conservation techniques, the potential benefits for both faiths and nature, are enormous", said Liza Higgins-Zogib, of WWF’s Forest Protection Programme.

The report includes a survey of a hundred protected areas around the world which also contain important values to one or more faiths plus 14 more detailed case studies from Kenya, Tanzania, Egypt, Lebanon, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, China, Mongolia, Europe, Finland, Australia and Colombia.

Guidelines are needed specifically for major stakeholders, including faith groups, protected area managers and governments and we propose the establishment of a learning portfolio of new and existing protected areas containing sacred natural sites, specifically looking at the challenges of managing for both values together.

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AGRI-INFO/MARCH 17, 2006



TITLE: SACRED SITES, OLDEST FORMS OF PROTECTED AREAS

ALAM BA NI NINYO NA ANG MGA MGA ITINUTURING NA SAGRADONG LUGAR SA BUONG PLANETENG ITO AY ITINUTURING DIN NA PINAKAMATANDANG URI NG "PROTECTED AREAS" KUNG SAAN PROTEKTADO ANG BUHAY NG MGA HAYOP AT MGA HALAMAN KABILANG NA ANG MGA PUNUNGKAHOY?

NGUNIT, NAKAKALUNGKOT ISIPIN ANG KATOTOHANAN NA MAGING ANG MGA SAGRADONG LUGAR NA ITO AY NANGANGANIB DING MAWALANG PARANG BULA DAHIL SA TINATAWAG NA CULTURAL BREAKDOWN, PRESSURE SA RESOURCES AT HINDI MAGANDANG PANGANGASIWA NG PAMAHALAAN.

DAHIL DITO, IGINIGIIT NG MGA EKSPERTO NA KAILANGANG LALU PANG MAGING MAHIGPIT ANG KOORDINASYON NG MGA KINAUUKULAN PARA HINDI MASAYANG ANG MGA PAGOD NG CONSERVATION SA MGA LUGAR NA ITO.

ITO ANG LAYUNIN NG REPORT NA PINAMAGATANG BEYOND BELIEF PARA MAENGGANYO ANG LAHAT NG CONSERVATIONIST SA BUONG MUNDO AT MGA GRUPO NG MANANAMPALATAYA NA MAGKAPIT-BISIG PARA BIGYAN NG PROTEKSIYON ANG MGA SAGRADONG LUGAR.

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