The Iberá Wetlands in Corrientes Province will soon be home to the largest area of protected land and wildlife in Argentina, Tourism Minister Gustavo Santos announced today.
Speaking in Corrientes along with provincial Governor Ricardo Colombi, Santos explained that the Iberá Ecotourism Park is set to protect the area’s fuzzier citizens and bolster the local economy by creating some 20,000 new jobs through the projected influence of tourism in the area.
Among the new park’s attractions are access to drinking water, sewage and waste management systems, improved roads, solar panels for energy generation as well as observatories for the over 350 species of birds that roost there. The transformation of the park would place more value on the local culture of Corrientes and its Guaraní influence. (The name “Iberá” comes from the Guaraní “y berá” or “bright water”).
The Iberá Wetlands are the second largest wetland in the world, second only to Brazil’s Pantanal. They are beautiful almost to the point of over-exaggeration; this reporter spent over 15 minutes scrolling through images of lush, verdant marshes, glass-like lakes, snoozing capybaras and glimmering blue water which make the weird cold fog engulfing Buenos Aires feel very far away.
This environmental plan is part of a larger history of conservation efforts in the Iberá Wetlands. In 1997, Douglas Tompkins — US ecologist, philanthropist and founder of the outdoor gear brands The North Face and Esprit — proposed a plan to protect and restore the Iberá Wetlands. It was reported that Tompkins had purchased 150,000 hectares of land located next to the wetlands, which his trust acquired with the idea of creating a 700,000-hectare space of protected land.
Though it was never implemented during his lifetime, his plan reflected the fundamental ideas of ecotourism and economic progress through environmental conservation.
Now, nearly 20 years later, Tompkins’ plans for the Iberá Wetlands will materialize to the benefit of both citizen and caiman. The Iberá park is currently composed of 550,000 hectares and will receive an additional 150,000 hectares from the Tompkins trust.
Tompkins’ ideas of social and economic development of a community through tourism are the central tenants of “ecotourism,” defined as, “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education.”
Ecotourism, when done right, would benefit both the local population and the environment, contributing to an increase in jobs and a focus towards conservation instead of development. Among those who should be rejoicing are jaguars who have lost 95 percent of habitable land in Argentina. Capybaras and anteaters are probably celebrating too.
And apparently the “eco” prefix is trending in Argentina: last week, The Bubble reported that an ecological park will replace the much maligned Buenos Aires Zoo.