Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa's plan to protect part of the Amazon rainforest has failed after rich nations failed to come up with the $3.6 billion needed to render oil drilling uneconomic.
The President announced that drilling in the Yasuni region of the Amazon rainforest would go ahead as less than one percent of its target had been raised.
In 2007, Correa set up the initiative to protect the Yasuni jungle. The area is home to some of the world's most diverse wildlife and included in the drill site is Yasuni National Park, which was made a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1989. In the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini region of Yasuni there are more species in one hectare than all the wildlife in North America. The Park is also one of the world's most diverse in terms of avian biodiversity, boasting about 600 recorded bird species.
Drilling in two areas has been authorised, although conditions have been imposed to minimise the impact on the environment and local tribes. Amongst these is the agreement to not build roads into the core of these isolated oil fields. However, PetroAmazonas have agreed to build 'ecological trails'. According to the Guardian, previous 'ecological trails' are "really just an access road with a greener name."
The drilling will also have major impacts on the inhabitants of the area, including a number of uncontacted tribes. Critics say that contact with oil company workers could decimate the populations of uncontacted tribes due to their lack of immunological defences.
Profits from the drilling are estimated at $22 billion, which Correa says will be channeled into poverty relief as well as health, education and welfare measures. The President maintains that the oil exploitation will affect less than one per cent of the Yasuni National Park. The extraction will be undertaken by Petroamazonas, the state oil company and are expected to yield up to 225,000 barrels a day.
The controversial move has been met with protests from both environmental and indigenous groups and nearly 700,000 have signed a petition which calls for a referendum on the issue.