Sustainability of Lower Lempa River (Bajo Lempa) Region | El Salvador

By: Jamie Pounds Stanton & Tom Stagg



This study in El Salvador aimed to determine the feasibility of strengthening and expanding a local resource management plan, the Plan Local de Aprovechamiento Sostenible (PLAS). The Bay of Jiquilisco and the surrounding mangrove ecosystem in the Bajo Lempa is a UNESCO-designated biosphere reserve and a Ramsar wetland valued both for being a large carbon sequestering ecosystem and rich in ecological variety. Further, the nearby communities rely directly on resources from this ecosystem for their livelihood. However, degradation of this ecosystem is threatening both the sustainability of the environment and the livelihood of residents.

Aiming to assess the broader social characteristics of this region, we identified four variables as important to the implementation of local environmental resource conservation policy: effective communication structures, community ownership of the policy, relative economic stability in the region and access to alternative markets and resources.

We conducted 76 household surveys and held over 10 hours of semi-structured interviews, the community leaders and citizens alike stressed the importance of sustainable regulation of their ecosystem. They value the mangrove ecosystem and know intimately that without proper conservation efforts, they cannot continue to survive as communities. Unfortunately, we also found that over 80% of community members in communities where the PLAS has been implemented are unaware of the regulations dictated by it. Additionally, 92% reported that there were no locations where they could acquire alternate materials to sustain their livelihoods. In addition, it was widely reported that enforcement, as well as monitoring and evaluation, was insufficient. Both the community leaders and the forest rangers expressed a need for increased resources, such as technical assistance and funding to train and employ more rangers, and for supplies as simple as uniforms.

We recommend supporting the expansion of the PLAS, but have identified key areas that need improvement where PLAS has already been implemented; if these issues are not addressed, they will also limit conservation efforts in new communities. Community education and investment in monitoring and evaluation are two areas where we are focusing our recommendations. A third recommendation underscores the need for support of established cooperatives in fishing, shrimping, and dairy production, among others. Our survey confirmed a very low level of income in the Bajo Lempa, with 62% of households surveyed stating they did not have dependable work, and 34% reporting a monthly income of $0. Improving the economic conditions in the region can relieve some of the burden of the mangrove ecosystem system as a provider of food and building materials.

Protecting Paradise: Community Engagement in Sustainable Development | El Salvador


El Salvador is one of the most densely populated countries in the Western Hemisphere. It exhibits deforestation rates comparable to those of countries like Haiti. As with much of Latin America, historical land use patterns and ownership have favored large-scale, singular landholdings, for which regulations or management regimes were nearly nonexistent. Today, authorities are attempting to reform and implement a functioning environmental permitting system, even as new investments in sensitive coastal areas will substantially increase over the next five years. The discussion will outline the challenges facing countries like El Salvador with evolving institutions and rule of law concerns. It will consider the role civil society can play in forging real development compliance–no matter the country—and will highlight the work of a visionary Salvadoran community-based organization, La Coordinadora del Bajo Lempa, whose vision and practice of rural development stand in dramatic contrast to conventional ”know-how.”

Public spaces cause Regression or Progression!


Karachi Clifton Beach 1960s

The good thing about social sites is that history, in one form or the other, is becoming more accessible to all. For example, people share decade old pictures of families and cities or advertisement via facebook or chain emails. These snippets from history give one a quick glimpse into the cultural and social fabric of that time. By this I don’t mean that by mere looking at pictures and adverts one can get a full understanding of societies. Nevertheless, these tiny doses of information do provide a window into the societal norms and prevalent cultures of that time. Looking at such images of Cairo and Karachi during the 60s and 70s, It was interesting to observe the extent to which these societies have regressed or progressed in terms of inclusiveness, diversity of religions, cultural norms, fashion, gender sensitivity, civic sense, and in their overall social thinking since then. The definition of modernity would of course vary depending upon which side of the fence you are looking from. However, there is hardly any debate on the fact that societies across the globe are increasingly becoming divided on the basis of religion and ethnicities. Besides many other reasons for such state of affairs, lack of public places and mixed-use physical spaces are some of the important reasons that play a direct role in creating polarization. Open spaces for recreation in big metropolises across the developing world are diminishing and as a result there is a growing tendency for violence amongst youth as a means to self expression. Karachi, once called the Paris of Asia, is now bracketed with war torn countries like Afghanistan and Iraq. Though, Cairo may not yet be there, but the way things are happening there, the times may not be too far. The deterioration in law and order results in gated communities and mixed use spaces become sparse. It is often seen that public spaces suffer neglect and results in abandonment when the affluent classes do not frequently visit such places. So, to what extent can we say that a lack of public spaces in mega cities leads towards regression in society? Is the current pattern of development sustainable?

A woman riding a motorbike in Karachi 196


           A Parsi family residing in Karachi during the 50

By: Unjela Kaleem