With budget deficits, Colombia wants to expand protected areas

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O ECO, Colombia

In a new chapter in Colombian history after the signing of peace agreements with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the country now faces challenges to create new protected areas and reach its environmental goals in the territories that were formerly under guerrilla rule. Ratified on November 30, 2016, the peace accords ended a half-century of conflict that killed more than 200,000 Colombians and displaced seven million.

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With budget deficits, Colombia wants to expand protected areas

In a new chapter in Colombian history after the signing of the peace agreements with the  Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) , the country now faces challenges to take the role of creating new protected areas and touching its environmental goals. The former territories under guerrilla rule. Ratified on November 30, 2016 , the peace agreement ended a half-century of conflict that killed more than 200,000 Colombians and displaced seven million.

The problem is that all this is threatened with a gigantic cut planned for the environmental folder. Only the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development will suffer a reduction of 60% of its budget for 2018. Other institutions vital to the country's environmental policy will also suffer as the  National Natural Parks of Colombia , entity in charge of the management and management of the system And the  Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Biological Resource Research in  scientific research that provides data and recommendations for national policy and public policy. Both will have a third of their assets scraped.

"This cut is very big, it's going to impact us a lot", criticized Julia Miranda Londoño, director general responsible for national parks, in an interview with the International Congress for the Conservation of Biology ( ICCB 2017 ). Held in Cartagena between July 23 and 27, the event brought together 2,000 researchers and scientists to discuss issues related to biodiversity and nature preservation. The environmental challenges facing Colombia have been the flagship of many discussions and panels.

"We are aiming to expand the protected area system and it is absurd to increase the system and cut resources. It can not be so. It is a lot of money and will involve all activities of control and surveillance, monitoring of protected areas, improvement of infrastructure of parks and meeting goals of agreements with local communities, "he lamented. This is a figure that has not yet been approved by Congress, but when it is, the folder will have to adapt to the new reality. "We will have to allocate the resources to prioritize and undoubtedly zero many of the work items we had planned," he lamented.

High deforestation

The scenario is further aggravated by the recent announcement that deforestation in 2016 increased by 44% over 2015. The warning was made on July 6 by the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies ( IDEAM ), responsible for the measurements. Only the Colombian Amazon accounted for 34% of the devastation.

With an overspending budget, national park and protected area management will have a smaller power of action to fight the fires, mobilize people and have technology tools to act in real time. "This cut is really very serious," criticized Londoño, who has been in charge of pasta since 2004.

Since taking over 13 years, it has helped create ten national parks and expand two others - the  857,500-ha marine sanctuary on the island of  Malpelo , the ninth largest marine area in the world; And the  2.7 million-hectare Chiribiquete Park  in the Amazon, expected to be expanded by another 1.7 million hectares.

Today Colombia has 59 national parks totaling an area of ​​14.3 million ha. The entire system of protected areas that includes state and privately owned reserves totals 23 million ha. Nine new national parks are in the pipeline and another five are expanding.

The protected areas system is incorporated into the country's development strategy in the context of the implementation of the peace agreements, says Londoño. "Protected areas are substantial and transcendental for the country's development. The environmental services they provide are fundamental and we have a great opportunity in the peace process, as the agreement establishes principles for areas of particular environmental importance to be respected. "

End of coca and livestock farming within the parks

The peace agreements signed with the FARC include halting the advance of the agricultural frontier, especially eradicating illicit crops. These are precisely the major threats to national parks: raising cattle and planting coca. The idea is to transform peasant families   who occupy park areas into conservation agents by helping them to recover degraded portions and to carry out permitted activities within the park, such as restoration, ecotourism, control and surveillance.

Brazil's experience with the creation of the Amazon Protected Areas ( Arpa ) program has been an inspiration to Colombian neighbors. Arpa, 2002, is the largest tropical forest conservation program in the world with the goal of promoting permanent protection of 60 million hectares, something like 15% of the Brazilian Amazon - an area larger than Germany.

With so many ideas and ambitions, the challenge is to get proposals out of the way, researchers and managers agree. And, all this, has to have a budget and adequate staff, reiterated Londoño. The lack of staff and park rangers is also problematic. There is no recourse to hire staff in order to take care of the new planned parks, much less there are people to look after the last three servants -  Bahía PorteteCorales de Depundidad  and  Acandí .

Uma possível alternativa em discussão seria transformar ex-guerrilheiros em guarda parques. Mas um sonho ainda distante de ser concretizado. “É uma ideia interessante, seria muito bem vinda, pois precisamos mais gente nos parques. Mas apenas se o governo nacional nos apoiar com recursos econômicos, pois até o momento não temos orçamento”, admitiu Londoño.

Conservação para a paz

Pesquisadores do Instituto Humboldt, o mesmo que sofrerá cortes orçamentários, defendem a criação de uma proposta que veja a conservação como ferramenta importante para a paz na Colômbia. “Imagina se tivermos uma estratégia de ciência e de biodiversidade para a paz que sirva para gerar conhecimento, recursos e alternativa para as populações que estão nas regiões de pós-conflito. E, assim, não voltar a ter o tipo de desenvolvimento que era o que originalmente acontecia com o corte da floresta, a expansão de gado e agricultura”, disse a ((o))eco Jose Ochoa, coordenador do programa de avaliação e monitoramento da biodiversidade do Humboldt.

Os dados sobre biodiversidade são ainda muito limitados nestas áreas antes dominadas pelas FARC, que representam um terço do país. “Temos um vazio de informação nestes lugares, são áreas que estiveram vedadas para infraestrutura e conhecimento. Não sabemos exatamente quais são as espécies que vivem lá e se há alguma ameaçada”, destacou. “Estamos começando a pensar como a biodiversidade também pode gerar alternativas de produção para que tenhamos paz e, para isso, necessitamos conhecimento”, defendeu Ochoa.

Este cenário de pós-conflito tem deixado os pesquisadores em estado de atenção. O termo ‘pós-conflito’ virou a expressão da moda nos meios acadêmicos e políticos. “Não estamos nem em guerra nem em paz, e sim em um processo que passa pela desmobilização, entrega das armas, recuperação econômica e reconciliação para que possamos considerar um país em paz. Temos muitas coisas para solucionar”, discutiu o pesquisador do Humboldt.

Entre os impasses está a falta de titulação de terras que muitos campesinos nunca tiveram mas que, após décadas de terem sido deslocados em razão do conflito, hoje reclamam seu retorno. “Um dos maiores desafios é considerar a biodiversidade como um componente importante do processo de desenvolvimento dessas zonas. O governo pensa em rodovias e produção, mas não considera a biodiversidade”.