“There are more than 20,000 lagged licenses,” says Minister of the Environment

14 June 2021
Nelson Davalos

The Minister of the Environment, Gustavo Manrique, together with representatives of the World Bank, on June 12, 2021. – Photo: Courtesy

The Minister of the Environment, Water and Ecological Transition, Gustavo Manrique, says that they will accelerate the approval of environmental licenses, since this represents investments for the country.

On June 5, by executive decree, the Ministry of the Environment and Water changed its name. Now it will be called the Ministry of the Environment, Water and Ecological Transition.

In an interview with PRIMICIAS, Minister Gustavo Manrique explains what actions will be taken to achieve the ecological transition proposed by the Government and what are the priorities of this State portfolio.

What is the ecological transition?

We have decided to start a process of radical, deep and progressive change in environmental matters.

For example, state portfolios have to work hand-in-hand to not just worry, as with the Ministry of Housing, about providing a home for a citizen or a specific population, but also to consider that a home has certain ecological credentials.

Simply setting up a house so that natural light enters and the residence can avoid turning on lights most of the time is already an ecological transition.

There is an example with each of the State portfolios, which allows clarity of the cross-applicability and depth that the country has decided.

How will the ecological transition be achieved?

We start from a presidential decree, then next comes ministerial agreements, and then what what needs to be done begins.

Are there resources to do it?

In the presidential decree, it says that we cannot increase the spending of the Ministry of the Environment, and that the budget is a maximum allowance.

But, life has taught me that there are many things in which political will is needed,, not economic resources, to make change and that is what all State Portfolios have.

There are many activities that do not need financial resources to implement the ecological transition; in fact, in the majority [of state portfolios].

What will be the other priorities of the Ministry?

There are two big priorities at this stage. The first is to unblock all the paperwork that has held back investment in the country. The Ministry of the Environment is the first stop for an investor to lay the first brick of his work or investment.

There are more than 20,000 environmental licenses or investment procedures held up in the Ministry.

The second axis is to work on conservation, on biodiversity, and on turning Ecuador into the place that provides environmental services.

Galapagos needs tourism, but also conservation, how will you reach a balance?

There are three axes that we have to take care of with the Galapagos issue:

  • The interests of fishermen.
  • Environmental care, proper practices.
  • If there is an impact, review what happens to the social axis and the effected industries
A group of children in the Galapagos Islands, on April 8, 2021.  Galapagos National Park

What actions will be taken against foreign maritime fleets?

A committee has been created made up of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Production, the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Communication.

There is a slight misinformation. We have a continental Ecuador and 200 miles of sea (economic zone); and the Archipelago with 200 miles of sea (40 of protection).

In the middle there is an international sea corridor and there they can come to fish from all countries, as long as they have their permits.

What is the problem? The problem is when the fleets enter into either of the two areas of the equatorial sea.

I cannot guarantee that the ships will not enter, but I can guarantee that the Government is working with all the technology – air and maritime – from the Ministry of Defense to prevent a ship, or several ships, from entering the equatorial sea areas.

The erosion of the Coca River is derived from the construction of the Coca Codo Sinclair hydroelectric plant. What is the Ministry doing in this regard and what will it do to avoid risks caused by these mega-works?

I would not be so sure to say that it is a product of Coca Codo Sinclair, but they are working on that. Nature is unforgiving.

Sure enough, there was a 1.6 kilometer undercut recently. On May 21, we went from an orange alert to a red alert and the Ministry is responsible for matters related to water and sanitation.

And there is also an inter-ministerial committee, where we are working to guarantee access to water and the potential mobilization of the 50 families in the community.

How can the environmental problems caused by the erosion of the Coca River be repaired?

So far there is no environmental repair. But, if you are referring to the river changing course or that it becomes wider or narrower, they are natural processes.

That is why I would like to leave what is the cause of the undermining and erosion as an open question.

A Celec drone monitors the natural phenomenon of regressive erosion on the banks of the Coca River, on February 3, 2021.  Courtesy Celec

Mining is gaining strength in the country; what is your position on this activity?

President Guillermo Lasso has said that he will not be a promoter of mining, but the activity could be an important investment that helps to have the income that the country needs.

If so, the government will go ahead with mining processes that meet all the requirements of the highest standards worldwide.

I am not a fan of mining, I could not be a Minister of the Environment and be a promoter of mining.

In fact I will try to push conservation, but there are clear regulations, rules and processes for obtaining a license.

If we receive the applications with the appropriate environmental management plans, there is no other option than to grant the license.

We will be ruthless in the controls for mining.

How do you intend to decimate the impact of oil production?

There is a difference between production and productivity; the President speaks of productivity, which is to produce more in the same place. It’s not that I have 10 oil companies and now I want 20.

It is important to mention that the investor, in the case of oil, has an investment plan. It has an environmental impact study with different biotic, abiotic, social chapters, including the structural plans and others.

In addition, they have policies and guarantees that if they do not comply, they must be take the necessary actions and face the outlined repercussions.

Read the original coverage from Primicias at https://www.primicias.ec/noticias/tecnologia/gustavo-manrique-tramites-represados-transicion-ecologica/

Informing and sharing news on marine life, flora, fauna and conservation in the Galápagos Islands since 2017
© SOS Galápagos, 2021

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