10. Importance of ITs and PNAs
Jesús Chucho Sosa, 2013.
Over the years, various studies, investigations, and reports have argued the importance of ITs and PNAs for environmental protection. These management units serve in Amazonia as conservation spaces, while deforestation continues to expand, putting pressure on huge areas of native forest in surrounding areas and sometimes even within their boundaries.
Previously, the prevailing view from governmental and social perspectives was that Amazonia was a region to be occupied and exploited, due to the enormous presence of natural resources. In that sense, indigenous populations were seen as obstacles to “development”. This view has been partially overcome thanks to action, internationally, by groups favourable to environmental rights and indigenous rights, which have later been incorporated into national constitutions and laws.
Given their socio-environmental importance, PNAs and ITs are governed by specific protection rules and their protection and supervision falls to government agencies. However, there are failures in ensuring the protection of these areas, ignorance of their importance in environmental conservation, and delays in the recognition processes. Thus, making progress in policies for the establishment of indigenous territories and protected areas that meet the socio- environmental needs of Amazonia continues to be an unmet need.
Waorani women in Gareno, Napo province, Ecuador. Ana María Acosta / Fundación EcoCiencia, 2019.
The creation of an PNAs acts as an administrative tool for states to protect parts of their territories of high environmental value, but conservation of these areas has also proven to be crucial in combating climate problems at a global scale. In ITs, some indigenous populations have taken local initiatives to confront the advance of illegal actors and to demand that their voice be heard by governments, both when claiming territories, as well as when deciding or authorizing infrastructure projects or the advance of the extractive sector in the region.
State deficiencies in advancing the demarcation and recognition of ITs and in clearly defending those that already exist favour the increased invasion of these territories and expose local communities and indigenous populations, the last defence of these areas of enormous biological and cultural diversity, to a state of greater vulnerability. Official figures show how the demarcation of ITs has a positive impact on reducing deforestation and degradation of native forests, which in turn guarantees the protection of carbon stocks, safeguards biodiversity, and conserves regional hydrological systems. All the above ensure the survival of cultural diversity in the region.
This happens because indigenous communities recognize the importance of the standing forest and use its resources in a sustainable way. The traditional practices of indigenous populations are strongly related to and in harmony with nature. In this way, strengthening actions for the demarcation and defence of PNAs and ITs, as well as the inclusion of the voices of Amazonian populations in the definition of local governance and environmental management policies, are essential for the conservation of Amazonia.