Motivated by the Santurbán case, a páramo located in the Santander region, Colombians where called to take a stand in the streets in defence of water and the páramo ecosystems. This region has been holding a resistance process against gold mining for a few years now. The main cities where demonstrations where held where Bucaramanga and Bogotá. In Bogotá, many associations and local organisations assisted of communities that live around these ecosystems, like the regions of Sumapaz, Pisba, Guerrero and Chinagaza, and many other people from Bogotá joined them, aware of the importance of this ecosystem for the supply of water to the city. Silvia Gómez, Director of Greenpeace Colombia and the Senator Claudia López form the Alianza Verde party, attended to this important event in the streets of the centre of the capital city.
The páramos are key ecosystems for the regulation of the planet and the water production and supply, located exclusively in the Andean countries, in the highest parts of this mountain range. In Colombia, the páramos occupy 3% of the territory; they are responsible for 70% of the water, and Colombia possess 49% of the páramos in the World. For 2008, 986 requests for mining licences in territories adjacent to paramos where made, distributed in 27 complexes of the 34 páramo regions that exist. This represents 624,811 hectares, around 33% of the páramo areas in the country. For 2010, 391 of this exploitation licences where granted, according to the report done by the he Von Humboldt Institute.
The most affected areas by granted exploitation tittles and hectares of exploitation are: Santurbán (44 tittles, 23.380 hectares), Pisba (88 tittles, 13.508 hectares), Guerrero (61 tittles, 12.072 hectares), Guanacas (6 tittles, 11.642 hectares), Puracé-Coconuco (79 tittles, 9.354 hectares), Tota-Bijagual-Mamapacha (17 tittles, 8.395 hectares), Rabanal y Río Bogotá (19 tittles, 6.715 hectares), Almorzadero (17 tittles, 5.937 hectares), Guantiva-Rusia (9 tittles, 5.619 hectares), Nevados, (22 tittles, 5.351 hectares), Chili-Barragan (3 tittles, 2.797 hectares), Cocuy (3 tittles, 1.979 hectares).
This is due to the promotion of foreign investment, promoted by the Government, and its development policies based in an extractivist mining-energetic model. As a consequence to this, the social participation in the decision taking regarding mining issues has been limited. The legal status of the paramo ecosystems is facing an unstable moment due to a governmental initiative to “delimit” these ecosystems in the country. There is now a huge controversy due to the question of is limiting the ecosystem to the highlands really a protective measure, or will it fragment the ecosystem and the water cycle, or whether at least this measure is better than nothing to stop the granting of mining tittles in the high mountain areas.
While the demonstration was taking place in Bogotá and Bucaramanga, the Minister of Mines and Energy and other governmental representatives attended the Mining National Congress in Cartagena, with the attendance of the President Juan Manuel Santos, who delivered the message of “government being absolutely committed with mining”. His official pronouncement denies that the country is calling to rethink the extractivist model that is “selling” our non-renewable natural resources, and depleting and contaminating our water sources.
“Mining is still being justified as the principal development opportunity for the country, while we become more dependant of exporting goods. This is why we continue to mobilize forces to demand the respect for life and health and that the access to water is granted”, assured Silvia Gómez, Director of Greenpeace Colombia. “The government hasn’t been able to listen to peasants, communities, organisations and citizens who have gone out to the streets all around the country asking for the respect to water, natural resources and the environment. Time is running out, while destruction, thirst and climate change are striking our daily life”, concluded Gómez.
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