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The Kole wetlands of Kerala are part of India’s largest Ramsar site, spread across the districts of Thrissur and Malappuram, Kerala. India. Agriculture is the primary economic activity undertaken in the wetlands, and in recent times, human activities like land encroachment, hunting, and unsustainable agricultural practices have jeopardised the ecology of the wetlands.
Objectives: The present study attempts to (i) understand the perception of local stakeholders towards conservation of the wetlands, and (ii) estimate the economic value that individuals place on the wetland ecosystem.
Methodology: The study uses a sample of 100 households selected from five panchayats of Thrissur district in Kerala, India. The stakeholders’ perception towards participatory conservation of the wetlands and opinions on problems plaguing the ecosystem have been analysed in the study. The contingent valuation method (CVM) has been used to estimate the willingness to pay (WTP) of the stakeholders and ascertain the economic value of the wetlands.
Findings: The study reveals that stakeholders are conscious about the various ecological and economic roles played by the Kole wetlands, with Three-fourths of them highlighting participatory conservation of the ecosystem as crucial. Land reclamation, urbanization, pollution and unsustainable agricultural practices were considered a major problem by close to two-thirds of the sample. Climate change was also identified as a major problem in the wetlands, with 85 % of the sample stakeholders viewing it with concern. The study also finds that households are very willing to pay for the conservation of the ecosystem. An individual’s education attainment, period of residency, income and land holding were identified as the most significant factors which determined theWTP. Using an annual green tax as the payment vehicle, the median WTP value was estimated to be ₹ 300 individually, with the total economic value of the wetlands estimated to be approximately ₹ 25 crores.
Application/Improvement: The study concludes that a bottom-up approach involving the public, state and action groups can change the ecosystem positively. The present study is, however, only an initial attempt to estimate the value of the Kole wetlands, and further analysis is necessary to see how the situation differs from one region to another.