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Biodiversity Conservation of the Third Pole: Potential Lessons from the Mekong River Basin

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The focus of this article is on the viability of developing an environmental management regime focused on biodiversity conservation in relation to the Third Pole, specifically the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau. The global significance of this region, somewhat neglected in legal scholarship, lies in the fact that, outside the Arctic and Antarctic, it contains more snow and ice than anywhere in the world and hosts the largest reserve of freshwater beyond those regions. Regional cooperative instruments on environmental management outside the region such as the Alpine Convention and the Carpathian Convention are drawn upon as precedents. The transboundary legal framework applicable to the Mekong River is drawn on to spell out the benefits as well as the pitfalls for the establishment of a Third Pole environmental regime on biodiversity conservation. The central argument is that there is a clear need in the Third Pole region to improve collaborative governance and planning frameworks to contend with the challenges of climate change, dam development, water management, resource extraction, infrastructure development and Indigenous/minority rights. It finds that the Mekong regime has failed to deal effectively with the assessment of transboundary environmental effects on biodiversity, or to appropriately involve communities and NGOs in the process, and this serves as a major lesson in the design of any Third Pole regime. The article contends that an appropriate biodiversity conservation instrument for the region could take the form of a protocol relating to a regional framework convention on environmental management, with both needing to be developed from the ground up, drawing on the recognized needs of the relevant stakeholders for both environmental protection and equitable utilization.

Affiliations: 1: Chair in Energy Law, University of Stirling


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