There are many reasons why this region should be a priority for whoever wins the upcoming elections. Opinion.
In Colombia, 476,000 km² of the 7,000,000 km² that make up the entire area of the Amazon basin are located. This extension is equivalent to 6.8% of the total area of the basin and, although this percentage seems small, the representativeness of the Colombian Amazon is based on giving rise to three important tributaries of the Amazon River (Caquetá, Putumayo, and Guainía rivers), hundreds of ecosystems unique, home to endemic and endangered species, in addition to being inhabited by dozens of original peoples, some of them voluntarily isolated, such as the Yuri and Passé. (Read A very bad sign: the two poles of the planet are warming at the same time )
In contrast, at the national level, the Amazon region represents 41.8% of the Colombian continental territory and is made up of the departments of Amazonas, Caquetá, Guainía, Guaviare, Putumayo, and Vaupés. But it is especially noteworthy that 70% of the country’s deforestation was focused in the departments of Meta, Caquetá, Guaviare, Putumayo, and Antioquia. Of the five departments with the highest deforestation statistics in the country, three are Amazonian departments. (Read Warming oceans will unexpectedly alter marine ecosystems )
In addition, between 2019 and 2020, deforestation in the Colombian Amazon increased by 11,000 hectares and went from losing 98,000 hectares in 2019 to 109,000 in 2020. An increase is even reported for the region. 2% in deforestation inside the National Natural Parks.
This problem is one of the main current threats to the Colombian Amazon and this leads us to current and urgent national debates to attend to in order to seek the protection of the forests of the region.
Among the priorities are: 1) guaranteeing the right of access to the land by the settlers, 2) land grabbing, 3) the substitution of crops for illicit use, 4) the sustainability of the extensive livestock model, 5) the socio-environmental impacts generated by extractive economies such as illegal gold and coltan mining, 6) the implementation of peace agreements, 7) the prioritization of conservation and management actions, and 8) the effective implementation of legal actions such as ruling 4360 of 2018, where the Constitutional Court declared the Colombian Amazon a subject of rights and ordered that mechanisms be applied to stop deforestation.
Currently, the official deforestation figures for the Amazon show that institutional actions to protect its forests are very far from being effective and leave in doubt whether the strong military component of the strategy is efficient or, instead, it is necessary to implement a more comprehensive intervention that considers: 1) education as a pillar of social transformation, 2) strengthening the system of national natural parks, 3) financing the life plans of the Indigenous communities, 4) integrating settlers and Indigenous people into sustainable production systems, such as nature tourism, payment for environmental services and green markets.
Failure to address the social and environmental debt that the country has with the Amazon will be even more costly from every point of view than generating a great strategy to protect the forests and the function that these ecosystems provide to the country and humanity.
This is why, regardless of the ideological condition of the next government, it is urgent, a priority, and a strategy to unite as a society to demand comprehensive and long-term state interventions, built from and for local communities.
In the current global environmental and health crisis, confirmed by the Assessment Report on the Amazon 2021 produced by the Scientific Panel for the Amazon, we must look towards this region and understand its importance from the environmental, social, and cultural aspects in order to build from the Amazon a more resilient country adapted to the negative effects of climate change.