THE WHITE HOUSE
HELPING BANGLADESH TO CONSERVE ITS TROPICAL FORESTS
Today, as part of the Administration's efforts to protect biodiversity and tropical forests around the world, President Clinton announced that the United States will make available up to $6 million for a debt-for-nature swap in Bangladesh. Under agreements to be negotiated, the United States would reduce a portion of Bangladesh's outstanding debt in exchange for its commitment to invest funds in tropical forest conservation programs.
Bangladesh is the first country to benefit from funding under the Tropical Forest Conservation Act signed by the President in July 1998. The innovative debt-for-nature swaps authorized by the Act help to preserve forests and protect endangered species while relieving poor nations of crippling debt. Congress appropriated $13 million for such agreements in fiscal year 2000.
Bangladesh's tropical forests cover more than three million acres. Roughly half are the mangrove or "monsoon" forests of the southwestern Sunderbans region. This area is home to 400 Bengal tigers, the world's largest single population. As one of the largest mangrove forests in the world, the Sunderbans are designated wetlands of internationally recognized importance. Bangladesh is home to more than 5,000 species of plants, compared to 18,000 in the United States, which is 67 times its size.
Following today's announcement, Bangladesh will negotiate two agreements with the U.S. Government: one to reduce its debt, and the second to establish a Bangladesh Tropical Forest Fund. Representatives of the U.S. and Bangladesh governments will serve on a board overseeing the fund. A majority of the board's members will be from Bangladesh's civil society, including representatives of non-government organizations that focus on forestry and biodiversity as elements of sustainable development.
To strengthen conservation efforts worldwide, President Clinton's fiscal year 2001 budget includes increasing funding for a new "Greening the Globe" initiative. This initiative would nearly double U.S. funding for tropical forest and biodiversity conservation to a total of $150 million in fiscal year 2001. As part of the initiative, the President has asked Congress to more than triple its funding -- to $37 million -- to implement debt-for-nature swaps under the Tropical Forest Conservation Act. The initiative's goal is to help developing nations strengthen their economies by preserving, rather than destroying, their irreplaceable forests. In addition to debt-for-nature swaps, the initiative would support increased training and technical assistance, expanded research into causes and prevention of forest fires, strengthened protections for endangered tropical species, and creation of the first comprehensive satellite maps of the world's tropical forests.