Indiscriminate logging for planting pastures, illicit crops and infrastructure development are the main causes of deforestation in Colombian Amazon forests.
In the center of Bogotá, the Colombian capital, a historic mansion jealously guards a sample of the greatest treasures not only of Colombia, but of the world. On delicate sheets of paper, folded like an envelope or acting as a photographic album, rows of rafts conserve about 107,000 specimens of plants and some 8,200 georeferenced flora species from the Colombian Amazon.
For years, biologists from the Amazonian Institute of Scientific Research, or SINCHI Institute, have nurtured this herbarium as a legacy to remember the environmental richness of the green lung that breathes the south of the country.
They are 483,164 km², 42% of the national territory, threatened by deforestation that has made it lose a rate of 110,215 Ha per year since 1990.
Although Colombia managed to reduce this phenomenon by 17%, according to the growth trend of deforestation estimated for 2018, which translated into 40,360 hectares of natural forest saved at the national level and 5,971 in the Amazon, the figures are still worrying. 70% of deforestation last year was concentrated in the Amazon region, increasing by 4.6% compared to 2017.
"In the Amazon is where the government has focused its main efforts to reduce deforestation in the country, to provide sustainable alternatives, to better manage the forest, but also to increase control and surveillance activities," explained Ricardo José Lozano, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development at a press conference attended by Noticias Aliadas.
Praderización, loss of tropical rainforest to be planted with pastures; illicit crops and infrastructure development are the main factors affecting the Colombian Amazon.
The SINCHI Institute has been monitoring different aspects of this region of the country since 2002, including the Colombian Amazon Land Cover Monitoring System (SIMCOBA), which had its last report in 2018.
According to this study, pasturage has stolen 185,433 hectares of native forest in the last 16 years, in a continuous and permanent process where the use is focused on extensive livestock.
"We have a very large balance between what is transformed from pasture forests, and this is socially and economically unsustainable," he assured Allied NewsUriel Gonzalo Murcia, coordinator of the research program Models of Operation and Sustainability of the SINCHI Institute.
Contradictory State Policies
In the concept of the Foundation for Conservation and Sustainable Development (FCDS), the changes in the Colombian Amazon are the sum of illegal activities, poorly planned sectoral policies, late reaction of the State to different problems and contradictory policies. For example, while conservation actions are encouraged, the development of hydrocarbons is promoted in the Amazon department of Putumayo.
In the article “Transformation of the Amazon. Repercussions of the synergistic effect between erratic policies and ungovernability ", published in the 11th edition of 2018 Magazine Colombia Amazónica of the SINCHI Institute, Rodrigo Botero, director of the FCDS, and Adriana Rojas, coordinator of Geographic Information Systems of the same institution, assured that the new illegal armed groups have consolidated their territorial presence in border areas of deforestation, based on the support to new migrations that are granted lands in conservation areas.
"Alongside these new settlers, new and large investors have entered. Thus, a unique landscape is configured in which large farms, small and medium peasants and groups of coca growers coexist under the territorial power of these illegal forces. The norms of colonization, land appropriation and public investment are frequently established by regional powers that usually have an armed expression ”, they pointed out.
For this reason, for the environmentalist Margarita Pacheco, the survey of the multipurpose cadastre is a key tool for the defense of this region.
"As long as we do not have a precise cartography, land will continue to be taken because there are no limits," he assured Allied News"It is very easy to continue expanding fiefdoms with invisible borders, taking advantage of front men, with notaries and archaic registries, because the limits of parks, forest reserves and indigenous reserves are not clear."
The government is aware of this need and announced that the pilot program for the survey will begin in the Amazon region approximately next November. "The most delicate issue in the Amazon is the issue of extensive land grabbing, and therefore we are going to start the cadastre in this region, the identification of those properties, is the biggest challenge we have today," said Minister Lozano.
For the SINCHI Institute, although it is necessary to work so that the 12% of the Amazon that is already intervened can migrate to a sustainable model, we must not forget the opportunities and potential that exists in the 88% that remains intact.
The challenge is to implement a model so that it is maintained, consolidating models of sustainable use, since that portion of the territory generates environmental benefits for the entire country, such as climate regulation and so that 12% can consolidate a different model from the current one in terms of its use and occupation.
"The forest is not to be kept in a glass box, you can make sustainable use without knocking everything down. Environmental tourism projects, pollination, handicraft production, among others. The goal is to keep the forest standing, generating well-being for the communities ”, assured Murcia.
In a historic ruling of April 2018, the Supreme Court of Justice declared the Amazon as a subject of law in seeking to protect this ecosystem, and ordered the government to take a series of measures for its protection.
One year later, and despite a low reduction in forest reduction projections, deforestation has not been stopped. The Ministry of the Environment is optimistic and considers that in 2020 the fruits of measures such as the creation of the National Council to Combat Deforestation and the so-called Artemisa Plan, inter-institutional coordination between the public force, the Prosecutor's Office, local authorities and the environmental authority will be collected. , to counteract this scourge.
Experts agree that other ministries should also be involved, such as Agriculture, which favors agroindustrial development on the Amazon frontier, the Interior Ministry that should empower indigenous people in their role as guardians of the forest, and Education that should promote a cultural change in the face of to the management and vision of the territory.
However, experts agree that there is a lack of greater coordination between the different ministries and State entities to achieve the common objective of protecting the Amazon and, even more, they consider that a cultural change should be worked in which an ax stuck in the tree trunk is not a sign of progress and development.
- Jenny González Camacho from Bogotá / Allied News.