Venezuela Environmental Issues

Water pollution, gold, diamond and coal mining, oil drilling, gas exploration, wood logging, soil erosion: it all exists in Venezuela, and according to three environment NGOs in Caracas, the pressure on Venezuela’s environment under the rule of the Chavez government is increasing.

This author randomly picked three of the ten-or-so big environmental NGOs (Amigransa, Tierraviva, Bioparques) in Venezuela to discuss the state of the environment in the country. Surprisingly or not, all the three of them were very critical about the environmental policies of the Chavez government, although each of them emphasises that they are strictly non-political organisations.

Though all of the NGOs fight for the same cause, which is a sustainable development of Venezuela, they all have their own, distinct character. The first one, Tierraviva was founded in 1992 and is closely linked to the British NGO Living Earth. It is one of the biggest NGOs in terms of employees: Tierraviva has 15 paid workers in three offices (Caracas, Valencia, Tucupita). The main area of focus for Tierraviva is environmental education. Links with the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) are relatively good. “Every now and then we are asked by the Ministry to conduct research, workshops, etc”, says Alejandro Luy, Director of Tierraviva.

The NGO Bioparques was founded only three years ago, and is closely linked to the US-based NGO Parkswatch. Bioparques counts six employees in Caracas. Its mission is the protection of the national parks in Venezuela. In order to protect them, Bioparques regularly conducts standardised quick scans (taking two to three months) on the state of the environment in Venezuela’s 43 national parks. “We mainly focus on the human impact on the parks, ” according to Rodolfo Castillo Ruiz, coordinator of Parkswatch in Venezuela. “Of course we want to keep the human impact as low as possible”. Relations with MARN do exist on lower levels, but Bioparques has more to do with Inparques, the state organisation responsible for the National Parks.

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