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Ecuador wants donors to give $3.6 billion in exchange for not extracting oil from the Yasuni jungle, home to a vast array of plants and animals.
Here are some facts about the project:
* Ecuador has created a trust fund to hold donations from governments, foundations and individuals willing to pay the Andean country to refrain from drilling for 846 million barrels of proven reserves in three blocks. The fund would be administered by the United Nations Development Program.
* Yasuni as a whole covers an area of 982,000 hectares. Indigenous groups live in isolation in parts of the park.
* The 200,000 hectare section in question holds 20 percent of OPEC-member Ecuador's total heavy crude reserves. Ecuador in mid-2010 said it was asking donors to contribute at least half of the $7.2 billion that the state would receive for oil sales if it were to allow drilling in the area. According to Correa, at current oil prices the reserves could be worth $14 billion.
* By keeping the petroleum underground, 407 million tonnes of carbon dioxide would be kept from being released into the atmosphere, according to the government.
* Scientists say that Yasuni has more tree species than exist in North America, plus a huge variety of insects, snakes and other wildlife including anteaters and the pink-colored fresh-water dolphins that swim in its rivers.
* The park is located near the equator and the region's complex network of rivers creates natural barriers that separate groups of plants and animals, encouraging them to break off into separate species. The nearby Andean mountain chain makes for steep terrain, allowing the park to have a unique biodiversity.
* Ecuador plans to issue certificates to contributors promising their money back, without interest, should the country ever decide to exploit the section. Given that Ecuador defaulted on its international bonds in 1999 and 2008, prospective donors are going to pay close attention to the certificates' fine print before signing on.
* If the fund does not collect at least $100 million by the end of 2011, the government says it will deem the project a failure and all contributions will be refunded, clearing the way for exploitation of the crude. The goal is to collect the full $3.6 billion by 2024.
Time may be running out—Correa has indicated that Ecuador wants to see at least $100 million in funding for the Yasuni project by the end of the year, but so far barely more than half that has been pledged. That could scuttle the initiative, Correa said last month in New York:
"The international response to our call has been poor. We're renouncing an immense sum of money. For us the most financially lucrative option is to extract the gasoline".