|Sustainable Energy News - No. 4 March 1994 |
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Against Underdevelopment in Latin America
Small scale renewable energy projects have an important potential to foster an environmentally sound economic and social development of Latin American counties, specially in rural areas. The availability of energy for productive activities can help to create jobs and support local economic growth leading to an improvement of overall quality of life. This is badly needed in the country and in urban surroundings, where low income populations are concentrated. Millions of people fall under this category due to the skew income distribution pattern throughout the Latin American continent. Their situation further deteriorated during the eighties (a lost decade in the region) due to the economic recession. The widening extension of famine and malnutrition has become a source of increasing concern.
In Brazil, non governmental organizations started a nation-wide campaign of solidarity with starving people. This spread to encompass a large number of initiatives through creation of local committees in neighbourhoods and institutions including state-owned and private companies. Besides trying to provide some immediate relief to the poor through food donations, the campaign is also aimed to handle the roots of the problem setting the goal of increasing employment opportunities. A positive synergy between this campaign and the launching of a Sustainable Energy Strategy could then be explored. It will demand a deeper involvement of NGOs with actual demonstration of appropriate energy technologies in the field, which is still lacking in Brazil.
Of course the successful launching of a Sustainable Energy Strategy in Latin America will still largely depend on the support obtained from governmental energy policies. The present situation in this respect has considerably worsened since the seventies, when important efforts were directed towards the technological development of new and renewable energy sources. Due to the dropping of oil prices and to the financial difficulties faced by all governments in the region, renewable energy research and development budgets were squeezed. In contrast, nuclear power is still actively supported in some countries of the Latin American continent. (See news in the last issue of SEN about a new nuclear power plant in Brazil).
These issues will be addressed in the Latin American Regional Meeting scheduled to take place next April in Brasilia. It will be held simultaneously with the IV FLEA/ELAN in order to gather the NGOs already involved in the anti-nuclear movement. An expected outcome of the meeting is a Working Plan to support a Sustainable Energy Strategy in Latin America linked with a Campaign for Employment Generation, in the framework of INforSE activities.
Emilio L. La Rovere IED and COPPE/UFRJ, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil