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Executive summary

The "environmental movement" and the international development community commonly have been at odds over the use of the world's humid tropical lands and their resources. This book is about the obstacles to and consequences of exploiting one such area in the rainforest of Peru and presents guidelines drawn from that experience which should help minimize the conflict inherent in any development activity. It is based on the view that environmentalism represents neither a sector nor a special interest; rather it is a way of looking at the activities of development to assure that their costs and benefits are equitably distributed. It also understands that our world is made up of an infinite number of environments, not one, and that therefore the question of whose environment becomes the paramount one in any discussion of what is to become of a land, a country, a river, an enterprise, a people.

Underlying the meaning and ultimate effect of this study are the premises that development in its social, economic and cultural dimensions is the process of improving human life quality and that this process involves manipulation of the complex, interrelated natural and man-made structure and function of human environments.

Economic pressures on developing countries in Africa, Asia and South America make it imperative that they eschew overdependence on imported goods and services and try to feed and house their people using the nation's own resources. It is natural that such countries should look to their rainforests as areas of unlimited potential for food, fiber, energy, mineral wealth and land to be occupied. But once there they are faced with the enormous complexity of the forest ecosystems and the minimal available information about the relationships among the earth, air, water, flora and fauna. They are reminded also that though sparsely settled, the humid tropics are seldom "empty."

This study has defined "environmentally sound development" as a process having the improvement of human life quality as its objective. It is a process of active manipulation of ecosystem structure and function in order to appropriate the goods and services offered by the ecosystem in question - a process that almost always changes the mix between natural and economic goods and services. That is, cities rely almost exclusively on economic goods and services, while in frontier areas like the rainforest of Peru natural goods and services play a relatively greater role. Environmentally sound development minimizes the conflict inherent in the shift towards economic goods and services and the increase in human activity; it maximizes mutual support between the required activities and distributes their costs and benefits throughout the affected populations.

In order to enable planners in the humid tropics to carry out their mission, understand the region, foresee possible conflicts among competing sectors and linked ecosystems, and forestall these conflicts by informed planning and adjustment, the OAS, UNEP and the Government of Peru initiated a detailed study of a single region of the Peruvian humid tropics in which development had been underway. This document provides an exhaustive treatment of the region and a method of conflict identification and resolution in the early stages of development planning. Each chapter has a single subject (water, agriculture, wildlife, etc.) but a multiple purpose. Experts in each field were asked first to describe the present state of the resources and sectoral activity in the region, discuss the goods and services upon which sectoral activity was, or could be based; and then identify and suggest solutions to any conflicts that exist or might arise between that sector and others with which it must interact.

The first part of this book (Chapters One through Three) discusses the context of the study, the conceptual bases supporting the sectoral analyses and the legal basis for human activity in the study area. Chapters Four through Seven identify the vast and complicated natural resources and processes of the Central Selva, looking at its major ecosystems with particular emphasis on soils, vegetation, water resources and wildlife. Chapter Eight gives the history of human occupation of the Central Selva, and the remaining chapters recount the activities of human beings there:farming, ranching, forestry, fishing, mining, road building and the search for alternative sources of energy from the forest - the activities, in other words, by which man changes the ecosystems which surround and support him. Chapter 16 presents guidelines, recommendations and observations for planning development in the American humid tropics.

The contents of this report are designed to assist policy makers and practitioners of development who participate in planning the use of humid tropic environments. Since the report is based on sectoral analyses written by representatives of the more relevant and important development sectors, those who undertake sectoral planning will find something here for them. Further, the concepts and conclusions should provide a basis for discussions within the organizations and interest groups that have come to be called "environmental," and should find ready use as reference material in courses or training centers dealing with environmental management.

Perhaps the most important parts of this report, however, are the sections which suggest to planners how to go about gathering information in information scarce areas, identifying the potential conflicts, and working together to minimize the impact of these conflicts while the planning stage is still going on. This will, of course, greatly facilitate the actual implementation of the development project, and, through understanding of each sector's needs, mitigate the "negative environmental impact" such projects inevitably generate.

Planners are told first to develop a regional model, and are offered a system for regional modelling based on the Central Selva experience. Next, an inventory of goods and services is necessary: this report offers a list of the more widely used natural goods and services in a tropical forest, but cautions that planners must make up their own lists based on interviews with the people who live, use, or have an interest in the ecosystems under study. Finally, a companion inventory of natural hazards will help planners predict how earthquakes, flooding, erosion and other natural events and processes might threaten the project at hand.

Among the guidelines to identify and remove potential conflicts during the planning stage are:

- use an environmental management advisor;

- coordinate to reduce potential conflicts (exchange ideas and information with other members of the planning team);

- review the regional conceptual model;

- analyze goods and services (and assign them to individual sectors);

- use an activity matrix to see how activities in one sector will influence, positively or negatively, activities in another; and

- distinguish between real and apparent conflicts.

Specific guidelines for the sectors are given, as well as directions for agriculture, forestry and livestock management. The report also deals with the thorny problems of spontaneous migration and how to honor cultural traditions and long-established patterns of land use.

Throughout this report the writers have used a common vocabulary, purged, as far as possible, of emotional words and phrases indicating the superiority of one sectoral interest over another. "Environment" itself was used only where it could be said to describe a specific environment; the word "ecology" did not replace "environment" or "ecosystem." "Delicate" and "fragile" are not allowed to describe ecosystems, because more often than not their common usage is to justify the position of a sector or interest group and says little of value about ecosystem structure and function.

The methods presented here do not discuss economic valuation of goods and services despite its being an important contribution towards better development decisions. Rather, the methods recognize that much of what has value from frontier areas has not been and may never be quantitatively valued. Important conflicts arising from changes in the mix of goods and services created by development activities, however, will occur, and it is the early identification and resolution of these conflicts that this document treats.

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