ENVIRONMENTAL AGREEMENT WITH DESTROYERS OF THE ENVIRONMENT
By Jorge Varela Márquez / 18 Nov. 2009
When you live under a military-business dictatorship, businessmen take advantage of the situation to reform laws according to their interests. One example is the “agreement” signed on September 9, 2009 by Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (SERNA) representative Valerio López and the president of the shrimp farmers association (ANDAH).
The “agreement” between a highly-profitable and historically anti-environment industry and an institution that is supposed to regulate and control its environmental impact is an example of a conflict of interest, which is different from an agreement of cooperation between parties based in respect for the application and adherence to the law.
In the “agreement,” the shrimp farmers offer to “implement a set of best aquaculture practices” in order to obtain an “environmental certification” that will make it easier to sell their product. Yet in their almost 40 years of operation, they have not implemented either the “ANDAH Code of Conduct” or the “Global Aquaculture Alliance Code of Conduct.” Nevertheless, they state that “the shrimp farming industry has carried out its activities applying the best aquaculture practices within the environmental laws in effect.” They forget that in 2004 an ethical and moral tribunal called the “Latin American Water Tribunal” condemned the main shrimp farms in Honduras and the World Bank for the pollution and destruction of the wetlands of the Fonseca Gulf. They also forget the multiple accusations of environmental crimes that have been filed with SERNA while the shrimp farmers continue to enjoy impunity.
The “agreement” also repeatedly states that ANDAH “will help” SERNA obtain international financing “to devote to environmental conservation in the protected areas”…But since ANDAH touts itself as a multi-million dollar industry, it should itself become a donor, or having been around as long as it has, it should at least give up all the tax breaks and economic benefits that the State provides it. Some of those economic contributions could be used in conservation. Another way to “help” would be if SERNA applied the law and ANDAH abided by it.
It also expresses the desire to “support actions that will lead to conservation activities and the rational use of the marine ecosystem in the Fonseca Gulf.” But if the shrimp farmers have not made rational use of the coastal resources, who will guarantee that they will make good use of marine resources?
It also proposes the formation of a “Technical Committee” made up of three members of each group to “examine and promote the implementation of the Management Plans of the Protected Areas, to support and participate in the enforcement of the commitments attained with the RAMSAR Convention” (for wetland conservation!). Yet, they exclude from said “Committee” the Forest Institute—Protected Areas and Wildlife (ICF), which as its name states, is the institution in charge of the administration of Protected Areas. They also exclude CODDEFFAGOLF that has been the organization that against the wishes of ANDAH and of various government officers, in an unequal battle, has obtained the designation of the Fonseca Gulf as Ramsar Site #1000, the legal designation of its Protected Areas, and has permanently denounced violations of both designations by ANDAH, SERNA, the General Attorney, the office of the Environment, and other institutions.
We can draw additional unsavory conclusions from the “Agreement,” that is clearly illegal, and that it can be interpreted as an attack on the Constitution of the Republic, the Ramsar Convention, the ICF Law, and other laws. This is why it is urgent that it be immediately annulled or at least that the international community be informed about this new opportunist maneuver of the shrimp farmers of Honduras.