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The Imataca Forest Reserve. An Irreplaceable Forest in Danger of Disappearing

The Imataca Forest Reserve. An Irreplaceable Forest in Danger of Disappearing


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The native forest of the Imataca Forest Reserve is irreplaceable due to its biological diversity, its relevance in the protection of soils and waters, its capacity as a regulator of gases and climate, and its imposing scenic beauties, among other environmental services. This Reserve is one of the "most important forest frontiers in the tropics on a global scale and in South America in particular" ¹. These forests due to their high ecological fragility, their very low capacity for regeneration once intervened, and the possible intensification of mining and forestry use to which the Venezuelan Government plans to submit them with the Draft Decree of Management Plan and Regulation of Use of this Reserve, place them in the category of "forests in danger of disappearing". Cutting them down is practically losing them forever. Cut the natural forest to convert it on a few planks of wood, sawdust, and some gold bars, sacrificing the rest of the associated species that live with it, is an ecological crime. Imataca, being alive, full of energy, is also a cultural and sacred reserve, a habitat for indigenous peoples, and a natural heritage for all Venezuelans.

Those who designated Imataca, as Area Under Special Administration Regime, had an avant-garde vision, and today almost half a century later, when global environmental awareness has increased due to the dramatic loss of thousands of species and ecosystems in the world, and the massive mobilization of Peoples who demand respect for nature and the signing of International Treaties to prevent climate change, desertification, loss of biological diversity, disappearance of forests and water sources, we in Venezuela are committed to deepen the protection of the forests of Venezuelan Guiana and, among them, those of Imataca, and ripped them from the clutches of the forestry and mining industries.

The protection of water sources is the backbone for the future of life on the planet. All our life is related to water. We would like to believe that there is an infinite supply of water on the planet, but this is tragically false ². That is why the scarcity of water has humanity concerned. By 2025, more than two thirds of the world's population will suffer from water problems and one third will live in conditions of absolute water scarcity, this translates into diseases, loss of food security, increased poverty, misery among others. The water-forest relationship is indivisible, the path of water through the forest allows the water to be protected and to flow into the rivers. Deforestation (due to forestry, burning, mining, etc.) interrupts the protection and continuous flow of water.

In the final report for the Imataca Forest Reserve, carried out by the Institute of Tropical Zoology of the Central University of Venezuela and the Ministry of the Environment of Natural Resources, dated December, 2002 and on which the Draft would supposedly be based of the New Plan of Management and Regulation of Use to replace the much questioned Forestry-Mining Decree No. 1,850 of 1997, there are statements such as: the remaining tropical forests are rapidly disappearing; the rate of extraction of the resource must not exceed the rate of renewal or replacement thereof; the natural renewal of the forest resource is very slow and little known and in turn depends on the forest ecosystem of which the commercially important tree species are just one of its components; forest and mining exploitation produces impacts on soils, hydrography, microclimate, vegetation, fauna, human communities and biological diversity in general; Medicinal plants are among the most valuable resources in the forest.

These statements led us to think, naively, that the new Decree for the Management and Regulation of Use of IMATACA, prepared by the Ministry of the Environment, would reflect the spirit of the fight for the defense of the Imataca Forests, undertaken by ecologists, scientists, and indigenous peoples and it would reflect the commitment of President Chávez in his electoral campaign, when moved by the Imataca conflict (1998), he publicly stated that, if to extract the gold we had to end the forests, then we would keep the forest! We hoped that the New Plan would incorporate the numerous proposals to declare a large part of the Imataca Forest Reserve as IMATACA NATIONAL PARK, OR IMATACA BIOSPHERE RESERVEThese forests, in addition to the environmental service they provide, do and will do us a great deal to maintain atmospheric stability, clean the planet and maintain fresh water sources.

The Selva El Dorado Forest Reserve was created on 06.02.61, and later the name was changed to the Imataca Forest Reserve (RFI) in 1963, with an area of ​​3,203,250 hectares and according to recent measurements by MARN, it covers 3,821,958 , 4 hectares. The motivation for the creation of the RFI, " it is not limited to economic criteria and includes the conservation of natural resources ", as specified in the Recitals: (?) that it is necessary to conserve the waters of the Yuruan, Cuyuni, Orinoco, Imataca, Rio Grande, Botanamo, Barima rivers , Orocaima, and others of the indicated region for being potential sources of hydroelectric energy and indispensable means for the industrial development of the Guayanese region (?) That according to the Convention for the Protection of flora, fauna, and natural scenic beauties of the country of America, signed by Venezuela in Washington on October 12, 1940 and ratified by the Nation in the same city on October 9, 1941, corresponds to the signatories of said statute to dictate measures that urgently impose the solution of problems that affect the conservation of renewable natural resources, highlighting among these provisions the declaration of Forest Reserves"³. It can be inferred that mining activity is therefore INCOMPATIBLE, with the purposes that motivated the creation of the Imataca Forest Reserve.

Likewise, the specific regulation of Forest Reserves found in the Forest Law of Soils and Waters, in whose regulations the greatest emphasis is placed on the rational use of the forest to make it permanent for economic reasons, (Art. 54, 55, and 57), reinforces this incompatibility between mining and forestry. And specifically in Article 57 of the aforementioned Law, it establishes that " In no case may forest reserves be colonized or alienated without the prior authorization of the National Congress"Therefore, any attempt to designate areas within the RFI for mining exploitation would in fact constitute a disaffection.

We believe that the sustainable development of the country should be seen as an integral matter and not as a use of isolated resources. Do we need to destroy the Imataca forests in order to survive? Shouldn't we rather get out once and for all from that extractive - rentier policy, which would also subject Imataca, with this Plan, to a savage forest and mining exploitation?

The total economic value includes, he did not use (of the forest), which in many cases is superior to the extractive, so the delivery of this Territory of almost 4 million hectares to national and transnational logging and mining companies, would merit a broader national discussion, an active and leading participation , a lot of analysis about the development we want, how we want it and where we want it, and no, a mere consultation of a Plan, which in addition to ignoring the possibility of changing the figure of Forest Reserve to one of greater protection, allows prospecting , exploration, exploitation, processing, transformation, and transportation of metallic and non-metallic minerals, including the facilities associated with mining projects. " The current forest use involves large investments, but the net benefit per hectare is low (US $ 8.32), evidently this conspires against the economic sustainability of the operations, which is often achieved through ecological unsustainability."

On the other hand, for the National Executive to be able to promulgate a new Decree on the Management Plan and Regulation of Use of the Imataca Forest Reserve, it must previously have the

development of a series of Principles and Rights as well as other constitutional regulations in order to include the requirements of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela promulgated in 1999 specifically in its Art. 128, which states that " The State will develop a policy of spatial planning taking into account the ecological, geographic, population, social, cultural, economic, political realities, in accordance with the premises of sustainable development, which includes information, consultation and citizen participation. An organic law will develop the principles and criteria for this ordinance". Likewise, the State must respect the premises that the Constituent Assembly provided, regarding the Demarcation of the indigenous Habitat, which must be carried out prior to any ordering and use of this territory and not after as established in this Plan.

At the time of the preparation of the Plan for Imataca, citizen participation was not estimated, limiting the right to participation at the time of the final consultation, and a single extension of a month and a half (until October 14, 2003) for continue sending observations, which is contrary to the principle of protagonist participation expressed in article 62 of the National Constitution " All citizens have the right to freely participate in public affairs, directly or through their elected or elected representatives. People's participation in formulation, execution and control of public management is the necessary means to achieve the leading role that guarantees its full development ...

The aspirations of the environmentalists were NOT fulfilled, by the Ministry of the Environment, when when making use of the rights established by the Constitution, in relation to participation, we formally requested the Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources, by correspondence sent on 08.25.03, an extension to discuss the FUTURE OF IMATACA, subject to: 1) The wide distribution and dissemination in electronic form and by other means of the environmental, legal and economic studies of the technical bases that support the new Project of Decree of the Management Plan and Regulation of Use of the Imataca Forest Reserve, 2) The holding of a Technical Forum with the participation of experts who worked on the technical, methodological, legal and economic studies of the Draft Decree of the Management Plan and Regulation of Use of the Imataca Forest Reserve, to promote a broad debate on the studies, methodologies and criteria for the allocation of uses in the Imataca Forest Reserve, 3) The convocation of a workshop to build visions and consensus of the shared aspects in relation to the Draft Decree of the Management Plan and Regulation of Use of the Imataca Forest Reserve, which lasts at least two (2) days.

All of the above
1) We ratify, once again, the terms of the document of Table No. 5 Global Vision of the Draft Decree of the Management Plan and Regulation of Use of the Imataca Forest Reserve, (www.cvg.com -español-marn-Observaciones_de_Caracas.)
held within the framework of the meeting led by MARN at CIED-PDVSA headquarters on 07/30/03, since we consider that it repeats the same errors contained in Decree 1850, widely questioned by the country at the time.

2) We propose that the Ministry of the Environment declare an important area of ​​the Imataca Forests, as Imataca National Park, or a more restrictive figure that allows us to preserve and conserve these valuable ecosystems.

3) We request that mining use be excluded from the Plan for the Management and Regulation of Use of the Imataca Forest Reserve in order to comply with what is established, the Forest Law of Soils and Waters (Art. 57), the Washington Convention of 1941 , on the Conservation of flora, fauna and scenic beauties, the Law approving the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the Biodiversity Law, and take into account the guidelines established in the final report of the Central University of Venezuela and MARN in relation to the incompatibility of uses between forestry and mining.

4) We request the competent authorities to clean up Imataca from the mining foci, recover the areas degraded by mining, rescind the mining concessions and / or contracts delivered within the Imataca Forest Reserve (national and transnational mining companies, mining cooperatives, individuals etc.) and that the granting of new concessions and mining infrastructure in Imataca be prohibited, in order to comply with what the law establishes.

5) We request a moratorium on forest exploitation in Imataca, until it is demonstrated in practical form that the Imataca natural forest can be recovered, and a Total Economic Assessment of the Reserve and a Forest Inventory are made.

6) We urge MARN to use all the necessary time to promote a broad national discussion, where interactive participation is possible, in order to discuss the Future of that territory, before approving a hasty and harmful Plan for Imataca and its inhabitants.

7) We urge MARN to conclude the Demarcation of the Habitats and Lands of the Indigenous Peoples, prior to any ordering and assignment of uses in Imataca.

[1] Final report on Imataca Mm ARN? UCV Dec 2002
[2] BARLOW, Maude, Blue Gold, International Forum on Globalization, June, 1999.
[3] Taken from: Brief of the Nullity Demand for unconstitutionality and illegality of presidential decree 1850, before the Supreme Court of Justice, File 0943, dated 07/02/97 presented by: Luzardo, Alexander; Garcia, Alicia; Bustamante, Maria Eugenia; Bracho, Frank; Moya, José; Sanz, Juan.
[4] Final Report, Imataca Forest Reserve Ordinance, MARN-UCV, December 2002, page 147
[5] Final report on Imataca Mm ARN? UCV Dec 2002
[6] BARLOW, Maude, Blue Gold, International Forum on Globalization, June, 1999.
[7] Taken from: Brief of the Nullity Demand for unconstitutionality and illegality of presidential decree 1850, before the Supreme Court of Justice, File 0943, dated 07/02/97 presented by: Luzardo, Alexander; Garcia, Alicia; Bustamante, Maria Eugenia; Bracho, Frank; Moya, José; Sanz, Juan.
[8] Final Report, Imataca Forest Reserve Ordinance, MARN-UCV, December 2002, page 147


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