Monday, October 15, 2007

Latin America Meets to Strengthen National Parks, Protected Areas

BARILOCHE, Argentina, October 5, 2007 (ENS) - To protect the remaining natural resources of Latin America through collaborative action, Central and South American countries and nongovernmental organizations have been meeting all this week in Bariloche at the Latin American Congress of National Parks and other Protected Areas.

Some 2,000 people, including most Central and South American environment ministers, are in attendance at the event, which is held just once every 10 years.

The outcome will be a political strategic message that will be presented to the governments of the region, to the Convention on Biological Diversity, and to the IUCN-World Consevation Union.

"It is time to bring the Latin American region back to the international agenda,” said Robert Hofstede, regional director of IUCN-South America, the organization in charge of the technical agenda.

In South America alone, he said, more than 3.5 million square kilometers are designated as terrestrial or marine protected areas. In preparation for Bariloche, every country developed a national report of the state of their protected areas, and they all were presented during the event.

"This is the perfect moment for the region to take the opportunities that protected areas provide for sustainable development, adaptation to climate change and preservation of its enormous diversity,” said Hofstede.

The government of Argentina announced Thursday that it is rejoining the IUCN, the umbrella organization of the international conservation movement. The IUCN has over 1,000 member organizations, including 84 national governments, in more than 140 countries.

The Argentine National Parks Administration has been an IUCN member and so has the National Institute for Agricultural Technology, but the central government has not.

Miguel Pellerano, a former regional director of the IUCN in South America, who now serves as undersecretary of policy in Argentina's Environment Ministry, said Argentina has always had the intention to be part of the IUCN. "We value very much the space that IUCN offers to discuss the main subjects of the development and conservation on a national, regional and global level," he said.

Hofstede said called the reintegration of Argentina "very significant," because the country is the second richest South American nation in biodiversity, after Brazil, with diverse ecosystems, thousands of species and cultural wealth.

"For the Union," he said, it represents "an enormous commitment that we will translate into activities that strengthen not only conservation activities in Argentina, but in all the South Cone."

At Thursday's event, Argentina also signed on to an international commitment to stop the loss of biodiversity by 2010. The governments of Ecuador, Bolivia and Colombia have already signed this commitment, which has been endorsed by the European Union and, last month, by China.
Jorge Capatto, director of the nongovernmental organization Fundacion Proteger, was elected as the new IUCN regional director for South America.

On Monday at the Congress, Capatto presented a symposium on the opportunities and threats of globalization and regional integration.

He said all sectors of society must cooperate to protect natural resources and biodiversity. "The State, the civil society and the private sector cannot face the present challenges separately," he said.

Capatto said the great infrastructures built in South America have caused severe impacts on the natural ecosystems, on the base of vital resources for our populations and the own economic and social development.

There are many examples of which the great works - like interoceanic road connections, dams and hydro projects, beyond their benefits, they have important negative impacts, especially on the local communities and forest ecosystems that are irreplaceable as sources of fresh water, fish and other foods and raw materials, regulation of the climate, prevention of floods and droughts.

"We know that in the near future, many national parks and other protected areas are going to be hit, directly or indirectly, or they are going to be degraded," he said. "They are going to become threatened critical ecosystems or hotspots." Capatto called for protected status for these fragile areas.

Here is the full article.

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