Salvador Bahia/Nairobi, 25 June 2005 – A new project aimed at helping the Amazon Basin and its 10 million inhabitants conserve and better manage the region’s economically important waters, forests and wildlife was announced today.
Pollution hot spots and damaged habitats and ‘ecosystems’ are to be identified. Measures will be drawn up to reduce the threats and restore the damage.
Other aims include moving to harmonized laws covering the management of the Amazon Basin.
A regional vision on how to achieve true sustainable development across the eight countries concerned will also be drawn up.
An important part of the project will be helping vulnerable countries and communities adapt and cope with acute climatic change.
Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said he believed the new project would play an important part in helping the region meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
These internationally-agreed goals cover issues such as poverty reduction and reversing the spread of diseases like malaria to the empowerment of women and the provision of safe and sufficient quantities of drinking water.
“This new project, funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), fundamentally acknowledges the crucial economic value of nature and the goods and services provided by river systems, forests and other ecosystems,” said Mr Toepfer.
“It reflects the fact that the environment is not a luxury good, affordable only when other issues have been resolved, but is ‘natural capital’ on a par with human and financial capital. Indeed, this project underlines that sustainable development and the achievement of the MDGs will only be possible through respect and good stewardship of the Earth´s natural resources,” he added.
The new Amazon project, announced at the GEF Third Biennial International Waters Conference taking place in Salvador Bahia, Brazil, is being implemented by UNEP/GEF.
It is being undertaken by the Organization of American States with the Oganization of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty as the regional body. The nearly two year project will cost just under $1.5 million.
The people, the land and the wildlife of the Amazon Basin are becoming increasingly vulnerable to climatic phenomenon, health concerns and a declining natural ‘capital’ as a result of deforestation, mining, urbanization and other land use changes.
This was graphically underlined in the severe El Nino year of 1997. The drought was so severe it led to millions of acres of forest going up in flames triggering respiratory and other health calamities.
Lagoons dried up affecting wildlife such as turtles and the region experienced power rationing and a reduction in the transport carrying capabilities of the Amazon and its tributaries.
Experts are worried that climate change, linked with rising global emissions of carbon dioxide and other so called greenhouse gases, are set to aggravate the basin’s problems making it harder and harder for people and wildlife to cope.
Meanwhile, there is also an urgent need to deal with other environmental issues including pollution of rivers from activities such as agriculture and mining which have impacts on drinking water and human health.
The new project, covering Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela, will aim to coordinate the numerous but fragmented national efforts currently underway designed to better manage and conserve the basin’s natural resources and natural ´capital’.
It will also draft a shared, long term strategy on how to more effectively achieve sustainable development for current and future generations living in this vast and diverse region.
Five pilot projects, designed to show how different communities can cost effectively deal with climatic extremes, are to be undertaken.
The project is designed as a preparation or corner stone for an even bigger and more wide-ranging $10 million ‘mega-basin project’ scheduled to commence in 2007.
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Unep News Release