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The Buy Off of Yasuni National Park has Begun

Vagabondjourney.com reported in August of 2010 that an international community of doners have agreed to pay Ecuador 3.6 billion dollars to not extract oil from the Yasuni Biosphere preserve that lies within their borders. This was at once a ground breaking initiative as well as a controversial one: some environmentalists think that this could be a new [...]

Vagabondjourney.com reported in August of 2010 that an international community of doners have agreed to pay Ecuador 3.6 billion dollars to not extract oil from the Yasuni Biosphere preserve that lies within their borders. This was at once a ground breaking initiative as well as a controversial one: some environmentalists think that this could be a new model for preserving areas of precious biodiversity in a dollar and cents world, while others feel that the Ecuador government is pulling a fast one on the international community — as they are essentially making billions of dollars selling “no oil.”

As of this month, January 2012, it has been reported that the Yasuni-ITT Initiative will been kept alive. Throughout 2011 the international community donated 116 million dollars to the United Nations Development Fund designed for the program, which was sixteen million dollars over Ecuador’s minimum demand to keep the initiative going.

There is an estimated 850 million barrels of oil in the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputinin (ITT) blocs of Yasuni National Park, which is in the Ecuadorian Amazon. This is argued to be the most biodiverse area of the entire planet, and is also home to two indigenous tribes who are resolute about remaining out of contact. It is  felt that if this oil was to be extracted that major environmental as well as cultural damage would be done to the region.

Frog from Yasuni region of Ecuador

The money for this Yasuni preservation initiative is currently coming from a collection of governments, environmental groups, as well as individuals. Italy forgave US$ 51 million of Ecuador’s debt, $1.4 million came from Spain, $2 million from Belgium, a half million from Australia, and a hundred grand respectively from Turkey, Chile, Colombia, and Georgia. Though Germany recently backed out of the initiative, stating that the plan lacked a permanent commitment that oil will not be extracted among other reasons, they pledged $48 million in technical assistance. A collection of individual contributors, which includes movie stars and former politicians, also put their money on the table to support the program. Though a whopping US$40 million of the $116 million collected came straight from Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, who recently won the cache in a major lawsuit against an opposition newspaper.

Yasuni national park map

The paradox here is that as Yasuni is a national park, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, as well as legally under the watch of the indigenous people who live there, which means by Ecuadorian law oil extraction should be prohibited there anyway without the need for the Yasuni-ITT Initiative. Though, as is evident, much of the world is not confident that Ecuador will abide by their own laws — as the country’s president made clear in an announcement three years ago — and have put their money where their mouths are, leasing Yasuni from oil exploitation for US$3.6 billion.

Filed under: Amazon, Conservation, Ecuador, Environment, Rain Forests, Top Stories

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3548 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Astoria, New York

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