24 October 2008

Peru gets $25M in debt relief to fund rainforest conservation

mongabay.com, October 22, 2008

The U.S. government has agreed to forgive $25 million of Peru's debt in exchange for protecting the country's tropical forests, according to a statement released Monday by the State Department.

The debt-for-nature swap comes under the Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA) of 1998, an agreement that provides for up to $70 million per year in debt relief for tropical countries. Since the TFCA was signed a decade ago, $188 million has been generated for conservation. The largest beneficiary has been Peru, which is hammering out a trade pact with the U.S.

"Peru is one of the most biologically rich countries on earth. Funds generated by the debt-for-nature program will help Peru protect tropical rainforests of the southwestern Amazon Basin and dry forests of the central Andes," said the State Department in a statement. "These areas are home to dense concentrations of endemic birds such as the Andean Condor and Andean Parakeet; primates including the Peruvian Yellow-tailed Woolly Monkey and Howler Monkey; other mammals such as the Jaguar, Amazonian Manatee, Giant Otter, Spectacled Bear and Amazon River Dolphin; as well as many unique plants. Rivers supplying water to downstream settlements originate in many of these forests, and people living in and around the forests depend on them for their livelihood and survival."

Deforestation rates in Peru, 1999-2005

TFCA pacts have also been signed with Bangladesh, Belize, Botswana, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Panama (two agreements), Paraguay, and the Philippines, as well as a 2002 deal with Peru.

The Bush Administration has been criticized by environmental groups for failing to fully fund TFCA at a time when deforestation has continued to claim more than 50.000 square miles of tropical forest per year. Loss of old growth forest jumped 15.7 percent to 24,000 square miles per year since the close of the 1990s.

While the country has historically had one of the lowest deforestation rates in the world, forest loss in Peru surged in recent years as loggers have moved into previously remote parts of the Amazon. Deforestation rates are expected to accelerate with the completion of a road project that connects the heart of the Amazon to Peruvian ports.

Copyright mongabay 2007

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