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Peru Moves to Protect its Natural Bounty

LIMA, Jan 17 2013 (IPS) - Peru’s economic growth is largely dependent on its wealth of natural resources, which provide over 50 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 80 percent of exports. In view of this fact, the government is developing a project for the valuation and protection of this natural bounty.

A view of the Peruvian Amazon. Credit: Jake G/CC-BY-SA-2.0

“There is a natural infrastructure tied to the physical infrastructure, which the state must protect,” Fernando León, an economic incentives advisor to the Initiative for Conservation in the Andean Amazon (ICAA), told IPS.

By way of example, he noted that “if you only worry about the pipes and other infrastructure for a drinking water treatment project, and not about the river basins that provide the water that will go through the pipes, then what will you treat for the population to drink in the future?”

Until late 2011, León headed up the Ministry of Environment’s Department for the Assessment, Valuation and Financing of Natural Resources, where he advocated the promotion of projects for the protection of these resources under the National System of Public Investments (SNIP).

His successor, Roger Loyola, who has continued with these efforts, announced that by the end of the year, a so-called “Green SNIP” will begin to operate.Loyola and his team have been working in coordination with the Ministry of the Economy and Finance (MEF), which oversees SNIP, to draw up the guidelines, conceptual framework and terms and conditions for the environmental projects envisioned.

This process has posed a challenge for the financial specialists, because they have had to demonstrate that these initiatives will be economically profitable for the country, for example, by demonstrating the economic benefits of protecting an endangered species, explained Loyola.

During this stage, projects are being studied in the areas of biodiversity, climate change, land management and zoning, and protected natural areas, all of which fall under the remit of the Ministry of Environment (MINAM). Sources at the MEF investment policy office told IPS that “the first step being undertaken is to assess which of all these projects qualify as public investments.”

Once a conceptual consensus has been reached within MINAM to serve as a reference for other sectors and the environmental and economic considerations have been reconciled, they will move on to developing the guidelines and methodology for the design and approval of individual projects.

Biologist Sandro Chávez, national coordinator of the environmental NGO Foro Ecológico and former head of the National Protected Natural Areas Service, believes the Green SNIP initiative to be a generally positive step.

However, speaking with IPS, Chávez warned of the danger that the government will make the mistake of taking environmental issues into account only with regard to investments in conservation projects, “when the environmental component should be mainstreamed in all of the projects presented by all sectors of the state to ensure that they are sustainable.”

León, for his part, stressed that the specific projects promoted by MINAM should be seen as a first stage, since he knows first-hand from his experience promoting the development of a Green SNIP as a public official that it will not be easy to convince the Ministry of the Economy to take this step. But despite this resistance, he noted, a number of “green” projects are already being undertaken by the MEF.

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