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Almost 16,000 people urge Colombian President Santos to demarcate the Santurbán páramo
In a petition to the Presidency and the Ministry of Environment, thousands of people are calling on the government to define the boundaries of this fragile ecosystem at a scale of 1:25,000 as required by Colombian legislation.
Bogota, Colombia—The Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) sent to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and his minister of environment and sustainable development, Luz Helena Sarmiento, the signatures of 15,901 individuals calling for the demarcation of the Santurbán páramo to be based on proper scientific criteria at a scale of 1:25,000.
The Santurbán páramo, located in the Colombian departments of Santander and Norte de Santander, provides water to nearly two million people, mainly in the cities of Bucaramanga and Cúcuta.
The signatures collected over Change.org, the world’s largest petition platform, follow a previous request (in Spanish) by AIDA and prestigious Colombian environmentalists for the government to properly define the borders of the páramo in compliance with national legislation and international standards. This would prevent harmful activities such as large-scale mining from irreversibly damaging this fragile high-altitude wetland ecosystem.
Páramos are "water factories" that contain a unique biodiversity and help mitigate climate change. In Colombia, home to the greatest number of páramos in the world, delimitation of this ecosystem is required under national law. That makes this petition even more important because the delimitation of the rest of the country’s páramos could depend on the outcome of the Santurbán decision.
The petition promoted by AIDA includes a letter to President Santos and Minister Sarmiento. In the letter, the signatories call on the minister to recognize the entire páramo (more than 82,000 hectares) in the definition of its borders, not just the fraction (11,000 hectares) declared as a Regional Natural Park. For this to happen, the petition calls on the government to apply the parameters already established by Colombian scientists and provides legal arguments to support this requirement. Together with the signatures, AIDA has included a document that analyzes the legal reasons why the government should fully delimit this area (Available in Spanish, here).
“Heeding the call of the thousands of signatories in the hemisphere is urgently needed because the risk to the páramos from mining is imminent," said Astrid Puentes Riaño, AIDA co-executive director. "Delineating Santurbán to a scale other than the ratio of 1:25,000 prescribed by the National Development Plan goes against the law. If the minister delimits the moor at a less detailed scale, the decision could be challenged in court.”
AIDA's action comes as the Committee for the Defense of Santurbán Páramo holds a protest to protect this valuable ecosystem on November 15 in Bucaramanga.
The petition and letter can be read at Change.org.