Sitting Room

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Iguaçu National Park-Brazil: a model to the world ?

Last year an English journalist who had already interviewed me before, so I can call friend, sent an e-mail asking me about the Iguaçu National Park and how I felt, how the local community felt to live near or around a Park that is a model to the world. A model to the world? - I thought. It can not even be a model for the rest of Brazilian National Parks. I don't know how this model idea has spread out, but a I hear this being repeated so much that I am affraid it might become the truth, you know the only truth. So let me tell what I remember about "our" Parks that also happens to be a World Heritage Sites.

Since January, 1st, 2000, the Iguassu Falls Visitation Area (VA) on the Brazilian side, and its counterpart on the Argentine side one year before, were handed over as concessions to privately-owned, especially-created companies for that specific purpose. That is the purpose of administering the new or improved infrastructures to cater to tourists needs. These have included: New Visitors Centers, Alternative Transportation Within the National Parks, food and catering, restaurants, bathrooms and similar services.

Before the aforementioned dates the tourism-related activities in the Visitation Area were the responsibility of the Administración de Parques Nacionales (National Parks Administration) in Argentina and of Ibama* (Brazilian Institute for the Environment) on the Brazilian side. This means that Park authorities had to be concerned with such wordly things as collecting entrance fees, making arrangements with travel agents and making sure that toilets were clean (they never were) and that toilet paper was not missing (they were always missing). In those days, Government concessions were nearly synonym of "free concessions" or very low, symbolically-priced permissions for friends or political allies to operate. There were big money concessions running for as little as 500 USD a year.

In the 90s Governments changed. Presidents Fernando Collor in Brazil and Carlos Saul Menem in Argentina were ellected and both announced that privatization was the way out of financial squeeze and was, as well, the passport to a First World Society. Argentina went ahead and sold everything from airports to water companies, from oil companies to road and the mail. Brazil also sold large companies in the mining and telecommunication fields among others. The environment was the next target and those money-making National Parks were the models to play and experiment with. The Iguassu Tri-Nation Area is seen as a Laboratory for the Mercosul countries (In tourism, police work, international conventions on crime, smuggling and integration). If it works here, should work anywhere else. In addition, both Parks, the Iguaçu (Brazil) / Iguazú (Argentina) National parks receive a million visitors a year (it may be that visitors are the same and not two million according to the 2 + 2 = 4 formula) and that means good money.

Next postings
Different prices and entrance fees
Parks' revenue increase
The local communities losses: Brazilian story / Argentinean story
Other parks to go
Alternative Transportation Brazilian and Argentine Versions
Ibama makes way to Chico Mendes Institute
And more

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