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Tuesday, March 3, 1998

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GREEN PORTFOLIO: In Costa Rica, the president of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn is to visit Braulio Carrillo National Park, which has an area of over 91,000 acres.

World Bank president to sign ecological agreement

Wire services / La Nación

SAN JOSE - The president of the World Bank (WB), James Wolfensohn will arrive in San José next Thursday, as part of a tour of Central America that began in Guatemala yesterday and which includes El Salvador, Honduras and Panama, too.

While here, Wolfensohn will sign a $500,000 environmental agreement with the government of Costa Rica, official sources announced in San José yesterday.

Wolfensohn's visit to this Central American nation will focus on environmental issues and his agenda includes a visit next Friday to the Braulio Carrillo National Park, 30 kilometers (19 miles) northeast of San José, and to the headquarters of the National Institute of Biodiversity (INBio).

At the park, which has an area of 37,000 hectares (91,427 acres) and a variety of micro-climates, Wolfensohn will sign an ``agreement of joint implementation'' for the protection of the environment. At the INBio he will tour several projects which are jointly developed by several Central American nations.

The Costa Rican Vice Minister of the Environment and Energy (MINAE in Spanish), Marcos González, said that part of the $500,000 from the agreement ``is earmarked to improve the mechanisms of commercialization'' of certificates for the reduction of the emission of gases causing the greenhouse effect.

Those certificates, of which Norway purchased $2 million last year, are to be placed in international markets and consist of bonds for the reduction of gases through the processing of carbon dioxide in tropical forests.

The idea is that developed nations pay countries such as Costa Rica to help them protect existing forests and subsidize farmers to keep their own patches of trees or to dedicate themselves to reforestation.

Wolfensohn is to visit the ``Panther's Pathway'', a regional project to protect the diversity of biology which extends throughout Central America, one which consists in a corridor of tropical forests, coastal marshes, plains, and forests located in the high areas of the region.

According to WB sources, ``poverty in Central America is tightly linked to the degradation of the environment.'' They pointed out as an example that Panama has lost 45 percent of its forest cover already.

The officials also remarked on the fact that in Guatemala two thirds of the rural areas have been eroded and than in El Salvador environmental damage is extensive.


Based on assertions by WB officials regarding the fact that the institution plans to fund social programs, Central America is confident the Bank intends to effectively contribute to fighting the poverty that affects over 60 percent of the 30 million inhabitants of the region.

The bank has a $1.3 billion portfolio for the region and is expected to disburse some $300 million in Central America this year.

``We hope that the new philosophy of the World Bank will help us fight extreme poverty, a problem that affects not only El Salvador but all of Central America,'' said Oscar Ortiz, a spokesman for the leftist Farabundo Martí Front for National Liberation Party -- the former Salvadoran guerrilla force by the same name.

The WB representative in Managua, Nicolette Bowyer, said that the institution will supply $300 million to fund projects to fight poverty in Nicaragua.

In Guatemala, Wolfensohn is having a first-hand experience with poverty, given the fact that it affects 70 percent of the country's 10 million inhabitants, most of them Indians.

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