Featuring Comité Ecológico del Litoral, Ecuador
"Highlighting the Good Work of Comité Ecológico del Litoral (CEL)"
[reprinted with permission from "Late Friday News", 12 December 2000, from the Mangrove Action Project, headed by Alfredo Quarto (mangroveap@olympusnet)]
CEL is an environmental non-profit foundation located in Guayaquil, Ecuador, with 12 years of experience in working with the environment and the community. CEL is made up of volunteer professionals of many different disciplines, including professors, students, and others interested in environmental issues. CEL also welcomes international volunteers to work on specific projects.
CEL actively works in four areas: conservation, environmental education, consumer rights, and activism. As well, CEL is always ready to receive information on environmental wrongdoing, and will do what is possible to bring attention to the issue. CELs services include an environmental library covering many areas related to the environment, and specialized conferences, talks, workshops, and seminars on ecological themes for schools, universities and other institutions that need them.
For seven years, CELs principal project has been to achieve the declaration of the Isla Santay as a protected area. For this CEL works closely with the local community. Santay has an area of 2200 hectares, and is the only site in Ecuador with five different species of mangroves. Despite numerous plans to develop the island, it still remains an oasis of nature between the industrial centres of Guayaquil and Dur·n. CEL has been working for 7 years to have the island declared a Protected Area, and on the 31st of October 2000 finally achieved the declaration of the Isla Santay and the surrounding waters of the Rio Guayas as an internationally recognized and protected wetland under the Ramsar convention. This represents the culmination of many years of work to realize some degree of official protection for the Isla Santay, but does not represent the end of Santays work in the area. In general the management plans for the other Ramsar wetlands in Ecuador have never been completed, and CEL wants to develop a management plan for the Isla Santay that can be used as a model for the other Ramsar sites in Ecuador. As well, CEL will continue working towards having the Isla Santay declared a protected area above and beyond the Ramsar declaration by the government of Ecuador. CELs activities with Santay also include working with the local population. With CELs help a school has been built on the island, and the government has provided a teacher. As well, one latrine has been built, and the houses of some of the poorest and oldest residents have been rebuilt. CELs projects with the population of Santay continue, and have recently taken the focus of developing sustainable employment alternatives to fishing.
CELs other activities include the following:
Environmental Education: CEL realizes talks and workshops on environmental themes such as recycling, biodiversity, ecological clubs, water contamination, global warming and the greenhouse among others. As well, CEL helps with the science fairs of the schools of Guayaquil.
Consumer Defense: Constantly preoccupied by the environmental health of the planet and its inhabitants, CEL keeps up to date on information about the damaging health and environmental impacts of various domestic-use products. Through its bulletin CEL helps to raise the consciousness of the community regarding the risks involved in using these products.
Activism: As the Ecuadorian organizing committee for the international campaign Clean Up the World, every September CEL brings together more than 3000 people to clean up the shores of the estuary in Guayaquil. As well, CEL organizes and participates in other activities to raise environmental awareness in communities, schools and other institutions.
Note: On November 12th the Ramsar Convention Headquarters declared the Santay Island as wetland #1040 of great international importance and the sixth Ramsar place in Ecuador. We hope this declaration helps neutralize the serious threat over the island mangrove ecosystem and, of course, guarantees the presence of the original population of Santay who are in charge of its care. We expect to count with the support and experience of friends and partner organizations for the conservation of which is now an international site.
-- from "Late Friday News" of the Mangrove Action Project, 12 December 2000