Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

Harmonious Development in the Amazon

Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

Harmonious Development in the Amazon

Article excerpt

Enrique Bello, a specialist with the Department of Regional Development and Environment of the Organization of American States, described his journey across the Colombian-Peruvian border. He was on an asphalt road, overgrown with dense foliage which draped the surroundings in emerald greens and deep browns. Following him were virtually all of the 60 residents of the border community, excited about Bello's inspection of the future highway site. In an area practically cut off from civilization, "This road is their dream," recalled Bello.

Bello, as well as 200 other specialists and field workers, are working as part of a Plurinational Project for Amazonian Cooperation, which was formally established by the Inter-American Economic and Social Council in July of 1984. Six years earlier, the Amazon countries had signed the Treaty on Amazonian Cooperation (TAC), giving high priority to joint efforts to promote development, environmental preservation, and rational use of the region's natural resources. This attitude was also reflected in a gradual incorporation of environmental management and sustainable development strategies of the Amazon countries.

Since 1985, the OAS, through its Department of Regional Development and Environment (DRDE), has been collaborating with TAC member countries--Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela--on the implementation of a variety of programs. These include offering technical cooperation through binational or multinational programs in river basins and border areas of the Amazon region; supporting the activities of the Council of Amazonian Cooperation in the fields of natural resources development and environmental management; and helping obtain external resources for specific projects. An important element of the Plurinational Project has been the execution of specific studies requested by countries. These studies will pave the way for a regional diagnosis of the area; an environmental zoning proposal, and an integrated development and investment strategy.

The OAS projects will potentially span almost 8 million square kilometers and over 22 million people. Last year the Project's scope doubled with the support of the Canadian government, which has a particular interest in supporting sustainable development activities in Amazonia. The Canadaian contribution is a little over $1 million during the three year period 1991 to 1993. The contribution of the OAS General Secretariat, from the beginning of studies undertaken in frontier areas to 1991, amounted to U.S. $1.4 million.

Binational border regions in the Amazon were selected by the countries as particularly problematic areas for development. Not only are these regions endowed by an enormous biodiversity, but they have the potentials and constraints of the Amazon region as a whole. The limiting of studies or programs to these much smaller, more specific border areas facilities inter-agency and interdisciplinary efforts for carrying out development activities. To date, the binational border projects have included: physical planning and management of the San Miguel and Putumayo River Basins between Colombia and Ecuador (1986); the model plan for the integrated development of the border communities along the Tabatinga-Apaporis axis between Colombia and Brazil (1987); the plan for the integrated development of the Putumayo River Basin between Colombia and Peru (1988); the integrated development plans for the Peruvian-Brazilian border communities (1988), and the Brazilian-Bolivian border communities (1991). …

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