Тanya Richardson "From Soviet Decrees to the Seville Strategy: Defending the Legality of Natural Resource Use in Ukraine's Danube Biosphere Reserve"


15 March 2016

UNESCO's Biosphere Reserves are a type of protected area that aims, in the words of UNESCO's Seville Strategy, to balance "sometimes-conflicting goals of conserving nature, promoting economic development, and maintaining cultural values." One of the goals behind the 1998 creation of Ukraine's Danube Biosphere Reserve (DBR), and its inclusion in a Ukrainian-Romanian Transboundary Reserve in 1999, was to shift away from the strict protection regime of the Soviet-era zapovidnyk towards an approach that would support traditional and new forms of resource use (fishing, reed-harvesting, gardening, ecotourism) to facilitate economic development. However, while DBR administrators embraced this mission, the category of "Biosphere Reserve" remains weakly defined in Ukraine's 1992 Law on Protected Areas, and regulation on using natural resources in parks is highly contradictory. Consequently, since the early 2000s DBR administrators have spent much of their time embroiled in lawsuits to defend the legality of fishing and reed-harvesting in the reserve from environmentalists', prosecutors', and inspection agencies' attempts to prohibit them. This talk presents an analysis of why litigation is so prominent in the life of the DBR, and how DBR administrators have thus far succeeded in defending the use of resources that are an essential part of local livelihoods. It draws on court documents and interviews with DBR administrators, Ministry of Environment officials, ecological inspectors, and fishing firm directors gathered during anthropological research in Ukraine between 2008 and 2015.

Тanya Richardson is a social anthropologist and associate professor in the Department of Global Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University. Her current research examines the politics and history of nature conservation and ecological restoration around Ukraine's Danube Delta. Her work has been published in the journals Development and Change, Ethnos, Science as Culture, and Anthropological Quarterly. She is also author of Kaleidoscopic Odessa: History and Place in Contemporary Ukraine (University of Toronto Press, 2008).