Ecuador will open up part of the Amazon rainforest to oil drilling after rich nations failed to back a conservation plan that would have paid the country not to explore in the area, President Rafael Correa said on Thursday.
Correa launched the initiative in 2007 to protect the Yasuni area of the Amazon basin, which boasts some of the planet’s most diverse wildlife, but said he had now scrapped it after it attracted only a small fraction of the sum it aimed to raise.
He said he signed the executive decree for the liquidation of the Yasuni-ITT trust fund and end the initiative. ITT stands for Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini, three untapped oil blocks.
Massive protest has started in front of the presidential palace shortly after the announcement. Protesters, angered by the decision, waved flags in the colors of Correa’s political movement.
The initiative was aimed at protecting the wildlife of the Yasuni national park, as the park contains more tree species than in all of North America.
Government was hoping it will receive support via funds and gave the project 12 years. The government was hoping to raise $3.6 billion, which is about half of the value of oil in the ground. However, only $336 million was donated, while Correa said the plan gathered only $13.3 million, which is less than a half a percent of its goal.
Speaking of ending the initiative, Correa said that drilling would affect only 0.1% of the Yasuni basin.