Global Financial Crisis a Bad Sign for Andean Biodiversity

by Dave

Guatemala News |

The Andean region is rich in petroleum and natural gas deposits. There are more than 180 petroleum and natural gas fields across the
western Amazon, which comprises the five Andean countries, and 72
percent of the jungle territory of Peru is affected by plans for fossil
fuel exploitation, according to a study published in August by the
online scientific journal PLoS ONE.

According to the most recent official data from CAN, which date to 2004, production of oil and derivatives in Colombia was 686,000 barrels per day — three times the average national consumption. Colombia exported some 460,000 barrels per day.

Bolivia produces around 41 million cubic meters of natural gas per day, 35 million of which is exported to Brazil and Argentina.

This enormous sources of wealth is difficult to bring into line with environmental conservation and the standards for protected areas. It also challenges the effectiveness of international agreements ratified by the CAN nations, such as Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization, which protects the rights of indigenous peoples.

Governments and indigenous communities interpret the Convention text in different ways.

Article 6 of the Convention states that “governments must consult the peoples concerned, through appropriate procedures and in particular through their representative institutions, whenever consideration is being given to legislative or administrative measures which may affect them directly…”

According to the CAN governments, “this article only requires them to consult indigenous communities, but they interpret it to mean that they are free to decide on the policies for the extractive industries,” María Amparo Albán, Ecuadorian attorney and environmental consultant, told Tierramérica.

The governments of the Andean bloc are not disposed towards preventing extractive industries from operating in protected areas — and which are often also the lands of indigenous peoples — “merely for reasons of biodiversity conservation.”

The indigenous communities, meanwhile, interpret the ILO Convention “as giving them the power to make decisions on extractive policies that take place in their territories.”

This interpretation is sustained by Article 7: “The peoples concerned shall have the right to decide their own priorities for the process of development as it affects their lives, beliefs, institutions and spiritual well-being and the lands they occupy or otherwise use, and to exercise control, to the extent possible, over their own economic, social and cultural development.”

Somewhat on the middle ground is César Ipenza, a researcher with the
Peruvian Association for the Conservation of Nature, who said, “We need
to develop tools for research and evaluation that allow us to reconcile
exploitation of hydrocarbon resources as factors of development with
the effective preservation of biodiversity in the protected areas of
the Andean Community
.”

According to Oscar Castillo, Bolivian expert in hydrocarbons at the Wildlife Conservation Society, “the challenge for the Andean region is to conduct an integrated analysis, one that is supra-national, about the environmental impacts of the extractive industries, in order to draft policies for the entire region.”

But Albán believes a region-wide policy is currently impossible for the bloc. “The internal conflicts of the CAN, derived from ideological differences separating Colombia and Peru on the one side, and Ecuador and Bolivia on the other, have paralyzed all progress on regional integration,” she said.

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