Development, conservation, and change in El Salvador’s Bálsamo Coast

Authors: Ruchi Patel*, Pennsylvania State University
Topics: Development, Environment
Keywords: Conservation, sustainable development, tourism, El Salvador
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 12
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Under global frameworks like the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, policymakers and land use planners have increasingly sought to integrate both environmental and human development objectives into ambitious agendas promising broad-scale ecological and social benefits. In El Salvador, rising tourism along the country’s Bálsamo Coast and recent political turnover have propelled government plans for sustainable development of the region through a combination of market integration, infrastructure development, and conservation of existing natural and protected areas. However, Bálsamo residents and land managers are concerned about the impacts of population pressure and expansion of urban and transport infrastructure for tourism on agriculture, biodiversity, and local access to natural resources and spaces now prioritized for tourists. Within this context, my doctoral research focuses on how tourism development in the Bálsamo interacts with local livelihoods and land use to create opportunities and barriers to biodiversity conservation. Using a mixed methods approach including archival research, household surveys, key informant interviews, participant observation, and spatial analyses of land use and land cover change, I propose to investigate (1) land use impacts associated with increased tourism development; (2) how institutional arrangements and competing stakeholder interests promote or impede conservation; and (3) who participates in, who benefits from, and who loses from development. In doing so, I hope to advance understanding of and policy solutions for how to more equitably and effectively balance biodiversity conservation with social and economic goals amidst rapid global development and environmental change.

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