|Colonization and Environment: Land Settlement Projects in Central America (UNU, 1990, 155 pages)|
|3. Colonization in Panama|
Even a brief visit to Darién reveals problems which must be considered in any programme for establishing an environmentally sound and sustainable colonization of the area.
The most outstanding problems with regard to colonization in Darién are administrative. The political indecision and the lack of co-ordination between government agencies combine to frustrate and demoralize the government officials assigned to colonization and environmental protection tasks.
Evidence of the lack of political will can be seen in various situations in the area. For example, the existence of an important natural resource area (Filo de Tallo Biosphere Reserve) with incomplete authorizing legislation is a serious oversight, especially in view of the area's function as a water source for the human population of the area. The damage done to the area before its legal status is clarified will have serious consequences in the event of lower than average rainfall in the area (as happened in 19811982).
The inability to define the legal status of lands included in the Sea Level Canal decree is another example. Although the Sea Level Canal plan may not be revived, it sets a dubious precedent when Agrarian Reform officials are obligated to operate illegally and weakens the capability of the Agrarian Reform Agency of environmental and land use control through the use of land titling as an incentive. Ideally, titling and possession could be made contingent on the implementation of ecologically appropriate management strategies, but this possibility diminishes as informal, uncontrolled forms of possession proliferate.
Problems of lack of co-ordination between government agencies in part reflect the lack of definition of priorities and goals. A clear example is the mapping of land claims. Given the repercussions which arise from land tenure uncertainty, mapping of land claims is an indispensable prerequisite to an ordered process of land occupation and use. Nevertheless, the request for such a map has not generated any concrete mapping activity for several months. Similarly, technicians in the field realize the deficiency of basic data for making land use recommendations. Nevertheless, each governmental agency has an independent set of priorities which may not include the generation of information necessary to other agencies. A unified set of regional priorities would be an important step in resolving this problem.