Gobar Times
Open Forum

Environmental Ransom?

or Compensation for Conservation?

imageJust take a look at the pictures above. Aren’t they simply breathtaking? Yasuni National Park, in the ever- so-beautiful Ecuador, is considered to be the most biodiverse spot that exists on the planet. Now, imagine a huge deposit of nearly 900 million barrels of crude oil worth billion of dollars deposited beneath this paradise.

Well, the paradise might soon be lost – forever.

One third of the population of this small South American country lives below the poverty line. The money that oil companies would pay to extract all that oil seems far too lucrative to let go of. So, what is more important? Development for a poor country or environment for the world?

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa has the answer. He has informed the international community that his country would be willing to forego drilling and leave Yasuni largely intact in exchange for donations equal to US$ 3.6 billion paid over 13 years.

That is about half the market value of the park’s oil deposits. The plan, known as the Yasuni-ITT Initiative would conserve Yasuni’s unique biodiversity and prevent the emission of over 800 millions tonnes of carbon dioxide.

There are two ways of looking at the situation. Does the developed world have a financial responsibility to help developing nations preserve nature? Or does this amount to environmental blackmailing?

The India Angle

imageimageIndia is not new to the concept of compensation for conservation. In May 2008, the Indian Parliament saw a very interesting Bill introduced in the Lok Sabha titled ‘The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill’.

The aim of the bill was to institutionalise and legislate a mechanism to collect and manage the huge amounts of money earned from projects cleared under the Forest Conservation Act (FCA), 1980.

In case any project seeks to divert forest land for non-forest use in India it requires permission from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). Earlier in 2002, the Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) was set up to manage funds received as a part of payment of compensatory afforestation and Net Present Value (NPV) for the use of forest land.

Forests like Yasuni and other environmental reserves hold value that cannot simply be made equivalent in currencies. The benefits are for all of us to experience. So shouldn’t we share the cost of preserving them? We need to come up with answers.

Before it is too late.

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Environmental Ransom?