|SALIENT POINTS OF THE MOU
The Asian Development Bank has a number for this document which is referred to in grand terms as the Protected Areas Management and Wild Life Conservation Project: 1767 SRI (SF).
According to the ADB this agreement has 4 main sections. The first section seeks a complete restructuring of the Department of Wild Life Conservation. This includes a decentralisation of the functions and changes that would facilitate the implementation of the proposed conservation programme. It would be worthwhile remembering that one of the primary mechanisms adopted by those seeking to disempower countries such as ours is to "decentralise into oblivion". What has happened to Agricultural research in this country is a case in point as those in the Department of Agriculture are well aware of. A notable element of the proposal is to enhance the eco-tourism functions of the department.
The second section describes the changes that are to be effected in the seven protected areas selected. Making the management of these areas more flexible and improving infrastructure figure prominently here. Once again we find the idea of eco-tourism being stressed here. The next section is devoted to formulating a scheme to conserve Biodiversity.
Section four elaborates on the fund to conserve protected areas which will operate independent of the state. (In the first draft this was not a "fund" but a "trust"). Whatever it is called it boils down to the provision of money to be used by those operating outside the state.
The total cost of the project is estimated at US $ 33.5 million (Rs 3115.5 million). Of this, $ 12 million (Rs. 1116 million) is a loan from the ADB. Nine million dollars will come from the GEF. Netherlands will provide a grant of $ 4 million while the Sri Lankan government and beneficiaries will contribute $ 8.5 million. It is not clear who the "Project Beneficiaries" are who can "contribute" in the tune of millions of dollars. In these days of playing the market, there are only "investments", one would have thought.
There are some very critical things to which the government has agreed. Among those which have earned the criticism of environmentalists are the following:
The Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance is to be amended and presented to parliament within a year of the loan being released.
Although providing almost 25% of the money, the government has agreed not to interfere in the affairs of the Protected Areas Conservation Fund.
Within six months after the agreement comes into effect, the government has agreed to sanction a team of researchers from international NGOs to study these protected areas. Although it is said that this agreement is in accordance with the Biodiversity protocols of 1992, the rights of people to genetic resources have been effectively negated.
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