By consolidating a protected area the size of the Netherlands by expanding the park of Chiribiquete, deep in the country, Colombia would shield the Amazon from a tragic destination. However, it still needs to be done.
When at the Rio + 20 conference in Brazil, President Juan Manuel Santos announced that his government had decided to double the area of the largest natural park in Colombia, the Chiribiquete, from 1.5 to 3 million hectares, approval was general . It would be one of the most forceful environmental gestures in a long time, since it is a key park for the protection of the Amazon. However, the process to realize that decision is far from complete.
In antiquity, the Karijona Indians believed that the world and humanity had been created in the Serrania del Chiribiquete. Thousands of years later, a scientific study showed that this enclave in deep Colombia registered the presence of the oldest human being in Latin America. Although its archaeological and natural importance is immense, almost nobody even knows that this territory exists. However, the sustainability of the planet depends largely on the land of the Karijonas. The Chiribiquete is the gateway to the Amazon, the largest forest left to the planet. That is why the proposal to extend its territory to an area similar to that of the Netherlands is fundamental for the protection of what is left of the so-called lung of the world.
There are two reasons why expanding the Chiribiquete is important. The first is historical. Colombia has the best preserved portion of the Amazon, since in the 1980s it consolidated the most ambitious protected area system in the region. This makes more than 80 percent of the forest is a natural park or indigenous reservation, two figures that have shielded the entry of economic predatory activities. The northern part of the Amazon, through the department of Caqueta, does not have that protection, and agriculture and cattle ranching have made it the most deforested area of the country. “Here a cow can have two hectares,” confesses the governor of the department, Víctor Ramírez. The Chiribiquete, extended, would be a powerful wedge between the potrerization and the virgin forest.
The second reason is scientific. According to Martin von Hildebrand, of the Amazonas 2030 project, all studies of projections of climate change show that the part of Colombia, due to its geographical location, is the one with the greatest chance of subsistence.
“More than 90 percent of that park is practically intact,” says Julia Miranda, director of Natural Parks, who has led the process of its expansion for several years. There have been reported 300 species of birds, 72 of beetles, 313 of butterflies, 261 of ants, six new species of dragonflies, seven of primates, three of otters, four of felines, 48 species of bats, two of dolphins and 60 of fishes. And more than 30 types of vegetation cover. Therefore, the park is postulated to enter the World Heritage of Unesco.
Although the president announced the expansion of the park in Rio + 20 as if it were a fact, a key step is yet to be implemented. Among other things, the National Hydrocarbons Agency has been unable to promote oil blocks in that territory because of its environmental importance. But the result, prior consultation with neighboring indigenous communities, is ongoing, and the result is not clear. Paradoxically, from this thorny procedure will depend that the land of the Karijonas, which according to them began human life on the continent, will hold as the lifeguard for its conservation.