Latin America thinks in green.

Author:Gonzalez, Alejandro

Natural resources are Latin America's greatest treasure. The protection of water sources, the recovery of agricultural areas, and the design of the most ecologically sound infrastructure works are the priorities of the future.

The responsible care and management of drinking water, measures designed to raise food production without affecting the ecosystem, and the construction of new infrastructure using ecological criteria are the factors that will have the greatest impact and that will guide much of the spending on the environment in Latin America during the coming years.

According to Santiago Gowland, managing director for Latin America of The Nature Conservancy, in addition to grouping some of the region's most important environmental initiatives, these are crucial in the development of large-scale systems that could be replicated in different countries. "The question we must ask is how to make the interventions and changes in a responsible way," he said.

That is how the organization works in terms of water security, an economic initiative whose goal is to finance water conservation efforts and protection of basins in public areas and on private properties. Basically, the returns from these investments are used for specific actions such as reforestation and land restoration, environmental education or monitoring flows of water. These projects are managed by authorities, companies and local education centers.

"For example, the Fondo de Agua in Quito has $14 million of capital with which to develop these activities," said Aurelio Ramos, director of conservation programs in Latin America for The Nature Conservancy. "Since its creation, it has had an impact on over 247,000 acres of land adjacent to water sources, and at the same time, it creates benefits for the Ecuadorian capital."

Through an alliance with the World Bank, the organization has set a goal of replicating this model to create capital funds in 32 large Latin American cities. It has already chosen 17 of them, including Sao Paulo, Brazil; Bogota, Colombia; and Monterrey, Mexico.

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