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There has been lots of talk recently on Twitter about oil exploitation in Block 31 of Yasuni National Park and how this contravenes the promises made by the Yasuni ITT Initiative. Fortunately, or unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

Fortunately, because it means that Yasuni ITT is still going ahead successfully. Unfortunately, it means that other parts of the Yasuni National Park are open to exploitation by oil companies.

The ITT in Yasuni ITT refers to a region (Ishpingo Tambococha Tiputini) of the Yasuni National Park. Therefore it is only a part of the park which is being reserved from exploitation, not all of it.

Block 31 is an area adjacent to the ITT region. It is obviously very disappointing to think that not all of Yasuni is protected and to many of us, contradictory, but in the current climate the fact that the Yasuni ITT Initiative exists at all is a huge positive. Its survival alone is not yet a given and that would still be the priority of Yasuniforever. If we could extend the protection to Block 31 and the rest of the Yasuni National Park, that would indeed be a victory for common sense.

A neat summary of Block 31 in relation to Yasuni ITT is included in a very informative article by Matt Finer and Pamela Martin called The “Dark Side” of the Yasuní-ITT Initiative. This article gives a very clear account of the initiative up to June 2010. It would be great if there was an update somewhere. The section on Block 31 reads as follows:

The oil concession immediately adjacent (to the west) of the ITT zone is known as Block 31. The extraordinary rainforest boasted by Ecuador in support of the ITT Initiative is the same extraordinary rainforest in Block 31. But Ecuador is quickly moving towards development of the oil in Block 31, even as they vigorously promote the wonders of the Yasuní-ITT Initiative.

In other words, to the disbelief of many international observers, Ecuador is treating them as two totally different beasts instead of one connected masterpiece. Note to Quito: This bizarre disconnect needs to change.

More information about Block 31 is available on the following sites:
Peru: The Exploitation Of Block 31 Threat To The Initiative Of Non-Exploitation Of Yasuni Oil

Ecuador To Begin Oil Production In Yasuni Park Region Next Year

The ITT block (block 43) project and block 31

A post from this blog headed US $100million reached. That was the easy part! has been quoted in an article written Gina-Marie Cheeseman. The article Donations Stop Oil Drilling In a National Park in Ecuador was initially published on the care2 website and subsequently on Refinery News. Although we are pleased to be quoted, the article seems to believe that Yasuniforever is critical of the Yasuni ITT initiative. Quite the opposite, this website was set-up to raise awareness of the initiative and facilitate its success. In a political environment which appears very short of new ideas, the Yasuni ITT initiative is innovative and groundbreaking. We think our support of this initiative should be obvious from our name.

What Yasuniforever finds disappointing is that it proved so difficult to raise a relatively small amount of money. As the article points out, the US$100 million was pretty much cobbled together, with very little money coming from the EU and nothing from the US, Canada or China. What is also disappointing is that this initiative has received very little publicity, which is another reason that this blog was created. When we consider that scientists have stated that the world is headed for irreversible climate change in five years Yasuniforever thinks that it is disgusting that it should be so difficult to raise what is actually a very small part of the total sum needed. Climate Change is so important, it seems logical that an initiative of this sort should make headlines throughout the world and that Ecuador would be inundated with donations, but so far, it would be possible for this initiative to live and die with most people having no idea it had even existed. Yasuniforever is critical of the world’s response to the initiative, not the initiative itself.

An alliance including national governments, regional councils and film stars has agreed to pay Ecuador not to exploit oil in its rainforest

Visit the Guardian Gallery for Yasuni.

So it looks like good news. The Yasuni ITT initiative achieved its first objective, which was to reach US$100 million by 30 December 2011. It hardly looks like a resounding triumph as it is a mixture of written off debts, a donation from the President of Ecuador himself and various others. Nothing significant from most richer nations.

At Yasuniforever, we are aware that there are many ways of viewing this initiative and numerous potential negatives, but we think that as a signal of intent, it has to be positive. What is important to realise is that at the beginning of 2012, when permission could have been granted for yet another natural wonder to be destroyed, it hasn’t been. A rainforest is still alive thanks to everyone who worked for a positive outcome.

You can read more about this from the links below or by visiting our news page. It should be noted that these are press reports and nothing official seems to have been posted on the UN fund page:

World pays Ecuador not to extract oil from rainforest by John Vidal
Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park Challenge – Succeeds in Creating a Crowdsourcing Model to Prevent Oil Drilling at Celsias

There is however, much more to do. Step one was only just achieved and much more money needs to be raised to save Yasuni in the future. Still, it’s a good note to start 2012 on.

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