Published on July 24, 2007
Assoc Prof Orapan Nabang-chang-Srisawalak of the re-search team said the idea was initiated by focus group discussions in China, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand between 2005 and this year.
Singapore-based EEPSEA was established in May 1993 to support training and research in environmental and resource economics.
After surveying 3,680 respondents across the region, the study shows that people are willing to pay only $0.02 to save marine turtles, even though they believe conservation is important. In addition, they believe they are already too highly taxed and do not believe that the taxes will be effectively collected or used.
"We therefore tried to assess people's willingness to pay for conservation through an alternative payment vehicle like a surcharge attached to household electricity bills," said Orapan.
The study suggested that if people could pay $1 per household per month, it would raise between $50 million and $135 million per year in the four countries and would be enough to create sustainable activities to save the sea turtle in the region.
The amount is more than the current combined global expenditure on marine turtle conservation by 162 conservation organisations, estimated at some $US20 million per year.
"After our presentation to the public we will submit this research to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to consider the electricity bill surcharge. If the government accepts the idea we will discuss details of the procedure," Orapan said.
According to the Marine and Coastal Resources Department, the marine turtle population has been declining for the past 10 years and only 1,000 are left.
The biggest threat is from human activity such as excessive and illegal harvesting for meat, shells, skin and eggs. Threats are increasing rapidly with economic growth.
Nisakorn Kositratna, the department's director-general, said if nothing was done, the sea turtle would be extinct within 50 years. However, most conservation organisations lacked funding for saving the marine turtle.
"Many resorts and hotels are constructed near the shore and they destroy marine turtles' feeding and breeding grounds. If we do nothing, they will became extinct," she said.
Niakorn said her department would include the research proposal in its plan to conserve the sea turtle, but donations would have to be voluntary because people think the problem should be the government's responsibility since it already has money from tax revenues.
"We have to consider various kinds of donation sources, but people do not like to be forced to make donations," Nisakorn said.