Conservation and development are not mutually exclusive. If anywhere has been a case study for this, and the economic returns of conservation, it is in the case of the mountain gorilla thanks in large part to the global interest in experiencing great apes in the wild through regulated tourism, and mechanisms of sharing revenue and benefits to support livelihood development.
Over the last year, the International Gorilla Conservation Programme has worked with stakeholders and Conservation Strategy Fund to conduct a Cost Benefit Analysis of the proposed upgrade of a section of road between Ikumba and Ruhija, approximately 13 km of which passes through Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a refuge for the critically endangered mountain gorilla and a globally-recognized hotspot for flora and fauna biodiversity. The analysis took into account economic costs and benefits associated with the proposed upgrade versus alternatives which would avoid the negative impacts of the road within the Park while providing improved road access to an additional 6,000 to 12,000 people living in hilly terrain as illustrated in the photo above.
This Cost Benefit Analysis is meant to inform, in a meaningful way, the financial investment in road infrastructure which could yield the most economic return to local and national economies. And the results conclude that further efforts to conserve the existing habitat for mountain gorillas and other species by diverting this section of road outside of the Park will yield the best economic return at local and national levels.
While the full report is forthcoming, and will be publicly available, the executive summary of Pave the Impenetrable? An Economic Analysis of Potential Ikumba – Ruhija Road Alternatives In and Around Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has been made available by Conservation Strategy Fund via their website.