Political ecology of conservation in the 'Alagol, Ulmagol, and Ajigol' glocal wetlands, Turkmen Sahra, northeast Iran

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Mirabzadeh Ardakani, Parastu




A post-structural political ecology approach, and relational thinking of place, space, scale and power, are used to conceptualize Wetlands of International Importance as ‘glocal wetlands’ and to develop an analytical framework to study relevant people-environment interactions. This framework is applied for the analysis of the power-relations affecting the Alagol, Ulmagol, Ajigol (AUA) wetlands in the Turkmen Sahra, Iran, and its Turkmen population. It demonstrates: (A) The Turkmen were knowledgeable stewards of their natural resources, and were active agents in shaping the AUA landscape that
was the source of their livelihoods, and in attracting the biodiversity that led to the AUA being designated as a Ramsar Site. This finding provides a strong basis for acknowledgement of their rights to tenure and access to their ancestral lands, water and natural resources. (B) Nation-state building, territoriality, and control over natural resources are critical political issues. The past and present exercise of state power includes: coercive sedentarization to control the Turkmen and convert them to citizens; exclusionary land use and water policies by the Shahs and the Islamic state;
‘fortress’ conservation facilitated by international conservation organizations and implemented by the Islamic state; and the power geometry of place in the Turkmen Sahra, including citizenship, ethnicity, and minority rights. (C) The approach of the Islamic state and Ramsar Convention Secretariat in interpreting the current AUA landscape as being a successful conservation project, as reflected in the Ramsar’s Advisory Mission Report, was remarkably ahistorical. A major ongoing concern is that the discourse on conservation in Iran has experienced a period of stagnation since the 1979
revolution, with the consequence that the concepts of ‘wise use’ and participatory management have not been adopted. This thesis asserts that employment of the glocal wetlands analytical framework leads to better understanding of Ramsar Sites, in Iran and elsewhere, by providing for the carrying out of place- and context-specific studies and the analysis of hidden power relations that shape wetlands and the topology of place. Such analysis provides a platform for setting realistic policy goals and facilitates decision-making processes that are both ecologically and socially just.


Political ecology - Iran
Wetlands - Iran




Carleton University

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Theses and Dissertations

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