x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Ecuador halts pioneering plan to conserve rainforest

The country launched the initiative in 2007 to protect the Yasuni area of the Amazon basin by encouraging the international community to invest billions in the region

QUITO // Ecuador will abandon its ambitious project that encourages rich nations to pay it to conserve its part of the Amazon rainforest, the Ecaudorian president said.

Rafael Correa launched the initiative in 2007 to protect the Yasuni area of the Amazon basin by encouraging the international community to invest US$3.6 billion (Dh13.22bn) in the region over 13 years. In return, Ecuador would not drill for oil in the area.

The $3.6bn represents 50 per cent of the oil wealth in the Yasuni National Park, which boasts some of the planet's most diverse wildlife. The Yasuni-ITT initiative's objective was to conserve biodiversity, protect indigenous peoples and limit global CO emissions.

Mr Correa said he had scrapped the project after it attracted only a small fraction of the sum it had aimed to raise.

"With deep sadness, but with absolute responsibility to our people and the history, I had to take one of the hardest decisions of my government ... I signed the executive order for the liquidation of the Yasuni-ITT trust," he said.

"The initiative is ahead of the times, and could not or would not be understood by the international community."

Conservation biologist, David Romo, the project director of the World Conservation Fund in Ecuador,said the project received pledges for $300 million from countries since it was launched.

But he said the international community had paid Ecuador just a small part of that amount.

"Despite the large number of pledges we have only received in the trust fund less than $11 million," he said. "Countries have been sluggish in contributing."

Some of the funds already given will be used to conserve the rich biodiversity of the Yasuni National Park, said Mr Romo.

"Germany initially backed the project but then shied away, after pressure from civil society in Berlin the government pledged $45 million of funding over the next five years to go exclusively in to conserving the biodiversity in the area which will continue if the initiative continues or not," he said.

Mr Correa said that exploration will be allowed in the area, but it will affect less than one thousandth of the Yasuni park.

Indigenous inhabitants have expressed their dismay.

"We are worried that the whole initiative was just a political move to get votes," said George Nampi, 36, a member of the Huaorani tribe.

"Oil exploitation has affected us negatively. We are told that roads are being built for development, we do not want these roads, people consider that because we live a simple life that we need more, we are only interested in our way of life," he said.

 

amustafa@thenational.ae