The importance of the Amazon for Sustainable Development

Posted on 27 June 2014    
Juruena River, near São Simão waterfall, Amazon, 2014.
© Zig Koch / WWF Enlarge
The global importance of the Amazon and its relation to the UN Sustainable Development issues were addressed during Environment Week, organized by the Interdisciplinary Environmental Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (NIMA / PUC-RIO) in early June.

The path to the definition of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) emerged in 2012, during the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20), when participating governments agreed to establish joint targets for implementation of sustainable development. The SDG should guide countries in achieving results, including universal access to sustainable energy and clean water, and should be integrated into the development agenda of the United Nations after 2015.

Critical to sustainable development is protecting key areas that provide ecosystem services.  Latin America is the region of the world with the greatest biodiversity and the greatest volumes of water in addition to other rich natural resources, and the Amazon is largely responsible for that.

The Amazon is not only the largest reserve of carbon on Earth, it also is responsible for conducting moisture from the Atlantic Ocean into the Amazon, the Andes, south-central Brazil, and South America. Deforestation in the Amazon negatively affects climatic stability around the world. Closer to home, deforestation can lead to decreased rainfall outside the Amazon in south-central Brazil.

"But the Amazon is also a political group of eight countries and one overseas territory that shares parts of the biome and needs to be administered and managed to the benefit of its local communities and of the populations of the Amazonian countries with a sense of responsibility consonant with its global importance. The degradation of the Amazon forest, the most extensive and richest rainforest in the world, with the highest concentration of biodiversity, will have immeasurable consequences,” said Claudio Maretti.

Maretti recalled that an integrated view of Amazon conservation is needed, not only protecting forests, but also ensuring the integrity of aquatic environments and the relationship between land and water upon which the ecological balance of the Amazon rests.

“It is no longer acceptable that the maximization of hydroelectric energy production should take precedence, to the detriment of other uses and benefits associated to the river basins. Furthermore, it is fundamentally important that we move forward and understand what is involved in the integrated responsible management of natural resources, river basins and ecosystems that are shared by more than one country.”

 "Hydropower plants are the biggest threat, because they not only impact the rivers and their ecosystems, but also the entire region through their inducement to human occupation. We need to be proactive rather than trying to fix things after problems arise. The rapid advanceme of a hydroelectric frontier in the Amazon, where around 400 hydropower projects are already being considered, requires a comprehensive regional plan to ensure the ecological integrity of the region and the preservation of the Amazon we want and need,” Maretti added.
Juruena River, near São Simão waterfall, Amazon, 2014.
© Zig Koch / WWF Enlarge

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