Ecological Economy South of the Orinoco

EXPLORA Magazine. Second Special Edition. 2021.


The south of the Orinoco region encompasses approximately  475,000 km2 including part of the northern Amazonia basin and the South American Atlantic facade. This area includes the states of Amazonas, Bolívar, and Delta Amacuro. The latter framing the union of the Orinoco river with the Caribbean and the Atlantic with forests, palm groves and savannas that are phytogeographically, part of the lower Guyana province  (Pérez Hernández & Lew 2001, De Lisio 2003).

Is this sparsely populated half of Venezuela, the one that best expresses the ecological and economic opportunities of the nation in a world building an agenda to avoid the collapse of our civilization from climate change and the loss of biodiversity. Paradoxically, is precisely in the area with the most potential to build a strong green economy, where unsustainable megaprojects such as the Arco Minero del Orinoco (ZDEN-AMO) are happening. The area is now plagued by the mining dystopia, urging us to keep raising our voice in protest, but also to seek and propose alternatives. Below a group of options leveraged by the ecological economy for the region south of the Orinoco are outlined. 

The valuations that Grott et al (2012) established worldwide for the tropical forest biome have been taken as a reference framework for the different types of forests in the area, among which the evergreen predominates. Among the 22 valued contributions for this biome, climate regulation stands out first, followed by supply and recreation for humans. Around 89% of the world’s value of Tropical Forest services is concentrated in these three contributions, estimated at $5,264.00/ha/year.

With about 37.5 million hectares of forest cover south of the Orinoco, the region has enormous potential for climate regulation services. The 7.2 million hectares currently committed to the Orinoco Mining Arc, represent around $1,465 million/year in opportunity cost, based on an estimated value of the global unitary climate regulation of the tropical forest of $2,044/ha/year (Groot et al. 2012). This is five times the supposed annual contribution of the 7 thousand tons of gold officially announced by the AMO1 and estimated at 280 billion, which has never been certified. 

Also considering options within the international carbon market, Forest Reserves such as Imataca and Caura can also generate economic value through carbon credits. Currently undermined by mining interventions, these reserves can serve as sinkages of Greenhouse Gases in mega-biodiverse countries like Venezuela. Bio-credits are another financial instrument that is privileged in climate mitigation and adaptation worldwide. These credits could be aimed at maintaining the conservation value of different National Parks and Natural Monuments south of the Orinoco.

The two Forest Reserves and the set of Protected Natural Areas within the three states Amazonas, Bolivar and Delta Amacuro, cover about half of Venezuela’s territory, showing the potential that this area has for climate regulation, and for the delivery of other ecosystem services. In Imataca, 51 species have been identified which have different uses mostly in the fields of medicine and construction. According to Díaz W. (2007) the most important plant families, in terms of number of species, within the Serranía de Imataca are: the Caesalpiniaceae, the Mimosaceae, the Fabaceae, the Boraginaceae and the Verbenaceae. This has also raised issues of biopiracy that need be addressed. For example, microorganisms associated with the plants Stegolerium kukenani, Seimatoantlerium tepuiense and Serratia Marcescens, which are endemic to the tepuis, were illegally taken from the tepuis Kukenan and Roraima and are being used by international pharmaceutical companies (Febres M, Molina C, 2006).

The Wataniba Socio-Environmental Working Group (2018) highlights a group of Amazonian products of relevance in both gastronomy and health. Some probably had an evolutionary origin in southern Venezuela. Examples of these products include: pineapple, azaí, copoazú (Theobroma grandiflorum, family of the cocoa), yuvía Yanomami, better known as Brazil or Amazon nut, varieties of chili peppers and sarrapia. All have international relevance. In general, the Amazon pantry can also be an important complement to the recreation service. Venezuela continues to be considered as a destination for ecotourism. This positioning is largely due to the Guyanese, Amazonian and Delta National Parks and Natural Monuments. Kukenan, Roraima, Sarisariñama, La Neblina, Canaima, Gran Sabana, Mariusa, Yapakana, Duida, are names that continue to appear as destinations within international ecotourism magazines and web portals.

We wanted to show potential economic opportunities that are respectful to the natural world and, we are convinced,  enhance public, private, and community entrepreneurship  generating in turn decent employment. This is therefore, a proposal for the sustainable reconstruction of the country in the 21st century.

References

Statement by Eulogio Del Pino President of PDVSA and Minister PP Petroleum and Mining of 02-25-2016. Available at http://www.pdvsa.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=7302:arco-minero-del-orinoco-estima-alcanzar-produccion-de-100-toneladas-anuales-de-oro&catid=10&Itemid=589&lang=es  (consulted 15-10-20)

De Lisio A,  Biodiversidad en Venezuela En Multienciclopedía de Venezuela  ED. Planeta Caracas 2003 (versión ampliada)

Díaz W. Inventario  preliminar  de  plantas  útiles de  bosques remanentes en Las Delicias  y El Guamo, Serranía de Imataca, estado Bolívar, Venezuela En  ACTA BOT. VENEZ. 30 (2): 327-344. 2007

Febres M, Molina C Caso de Estudio en Venezuela “Microorganismos con actividad anticancerígena” Iniciativa de Prevención de la Biopiratería Documentos de Investigación  Año II No.7 Setiembre 2006

Pérez Hernández, R.; Lew, D. Las clasificaciones e hipótesis biogeográficas para la guayana venezolana Interciencia, vol. 26, núm. 9, septiembre, 2001, pp. 373-382 Asociación Interciencia Caracas, VenezuelaWataniba Alternativas al extractivismo en y desde la Amazonía venezolana En N°. 2 Revista Territorios Comunes 2018 (Available at http://www.ecopoliticavenezuela.org/2018/12/10/alternativas-al-extractivismo-desde-la-amazonia-venezolana/)

Antonio De Lisio


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