Nicaragua Has “No Environmental Policy”, admits government advisor

“If I were a MARENA official, I’d be ashamed,” said Jaime Incer Barquero

By Wilfredo Miranda Aburto  (Confidencial)

Jaime Incer Barquero: “There’s utter ignorance on the part of the authorities,” the expert admonished, adding that the private sector “has a short-term view of environmental management.” Photo: Carlos Herrera/confidencial
Jaime Incer Barquero: “There’s utter ignorance on the part of the authorities,” the expert admonished, adding that the private sector “has a short-term view of environmental management.” Photo: Carlos Herrera/confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – Scientist Jaime Incer Barquero, presidential advisor on environmental matters, severely criticized the inaction of the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (MARENA) in the face of the destruction of the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve at the hands of squatters. “It’s inexplicable,” was the reaction of Incer, former minister of this institution.

The “Regulations for Nicaragua’s Protected Areas”, established via decree 01-2007 and approved on January 8, 2007, requires MARENA to oversee Indio Maíz.  However, Incer Barquero paints an attitude of complete indifference. “They’re deaf, dumb and blind,” emphasizes this respected scientist, one of those most familiar with issues involving the Nicaraguan environment.

“When I attend international forums and state that the governmental institution charged with protecting the environment does nothing, everyone is astonished,” the scientist assured.

“To destroy nature – without which it’s impossible to survive – discredits the government and the entire country,” he affirmed.

Incer Barquera maintained that the pro-environment and pro-reforestation discourse of Daniel Ortega’s government doesn’t match the reality.

“No ecological precautions have been taken, although the laws consider a lack of preventive measures to be a criminal offense,” assured Incer Barquero, in reference to the Interoceanic Canal project, whose promoters assure that they will reforest the area around the Punta Gorda river where they’re planning to construct an artificial reservoir.

“Planting twenty thousand little trees isn’t reforesting.  It has zero impact when compared to the thousands of lost hectares in Nicaragua,” the scientist added, referring also to the “Adopt a tree for the love of Nicaragua” campaign launched by first lady Rosario Murillo in response to criticism of the legally approved sacking of pine trees last April in Dipilto and Jalapa.

Over two thousand hectares (approximately 4,942 acres) have been razed in Indio Maíz alone, according to studies by the Rama-Kriol territorial government and the environmental River Foundation.

Incer Barquero explained that Tropical Rainforests such as the Indio Maíz reserve exist from southern Mexico up through the foothills of the Andes range.  They’re of prime importance in avoiding erosion and diminished river volume, and they’re also our “lungs” for oxygen.

“I’d be ashamed”

The former minister of MARENA expressed that if he was the current head of that state ministry he’d be ashamed. “Because everything is deteriorating, and they do nothing although it’s their obligation to defend the environment and to educate people, including the leaders,” he stated.

Incer Barquero was critical of the fact that the municipal governments also keep silent and lack preventive measures to sanction environmental crimes. In his opinion they don’t act because “personal benefits are exchanged for the trafficking of wood, drugs and illegal fishing.”

“We’re destroying the tropical environment to favor personal interests. There’s utter ignorance on the part of the authorities,” admonished the presidential advisor, who assured that there were political sectors encouraging the invasion of the reserve in exchange for votes and the promise to legalize the parcels.

The scientist predicted difficult times in the face of climate change, a risk that has become a topic of worldwide concern. Incer Barquero said that the forests would be important in combating it, since trees channel the infiltration of water and maintain the moisture.

“We’re playing with two great dangers: El Niño and La Niña.  With deforestation there aren’t any forests, and erosion and drought appear.  Later the floods come,” the scientist illustrated, adding that Nicaragua doesn’t possess “a clear policy for defending its natural resources.”

Private sector and shared responsibility

In Indio Maíz, as in other forests and indigenous territories, cattle ranching is the chief menace.  Incer Barquero stated that a hectare of forestland is worth more than four liters of milk.

The scientist doesn’t understand how it’s possible that loans for cattle-raising are still being issued, although this implies destroying forests in order to grow grass for the herd. “A hectare of forestland has twenty times more value than one of forage,” Incer Barquero insisted.

The presidential advisor spoke of private enterprise’s “shared responsibility” to practice a business model that’s friendly to the environment.

Nevertheless, he specified that the national private sector “has a short-term view of sustainable and adequate management of the environment.” “They want to extend the agricultural frontier at the cost of the destruction of the forests and the soil,” he indicated.

Incer Barquero spoke regretfully of the private sector’s “erroneous concept of short-term, immediate production.” “We’re a country that destroys its natural resources,” was his final verdict.