Parts of the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador have been cleared for oil exploration after the failure of a conservation plan. Donations did not come close to the amount needed to save the rainforest.
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa announced on Thursday that plans to explore oil drilling in an Amazon preserve could continue, effectively declaring that initiative to generate money to save the Yasuni National Park had failed.
"With deep sadness but also with absolute responsibility to our people and history, I have had to take one of the hardest decisions of my government," Correa said in an address to the nation.
In 2007, Correa had spearheaded the effort to preserve the national park. It envisioned international donations collecting $3.6 billion (2.7 billion euros) over a 12-year period. This would have offset about half of the estimated value of the oil sitting in the ground in the Yasuni basin as compensation for the government.
But in six years, only about $13.3 million had been donated - less than half a percent of what had originally been hoped for.
"The world has failed us so I have requested that in the national interest the National Assembly allows us to develop Yasuni," Correa said.
Ecuador's constitution prevents extracting non-renewable resources from protected areas, but exceptions can be made if it is deemed in the national interest.
The donations have been held in a trust run by the United Nations Development Program, and will be returned to their donors.
The Yasuni National Park is a biologically diverse area of rainforest and is home to nomadic native tribes.
Correa reassured Ecuadoreans that any future drilling would be limited to one percent of the total area of the park.
mz/pfd (Reuters, AFP, AP)