Translated By: Buddy Bell, a CSN volunteer translator
Edited By: Tiffany Vazquez, a CSN intern and editor
Today the 24th and tomorrow the 25th of February, in the municipality of Chitagá (Northern Santander), the Association for Sustainable Management of the Environment (AMASOMA), which organizes the Regional Environmental Forum for the Defense of the Páramo El Almorzadero, hopes to gather close to 1,000 people from different organizations and collectives of women, students, young people, trade unionists, peasants, and indigenous from the north and northeast of Colombia. AMASOMA has proposed we should “use the forum as tool to make it so that the people are the ones who legislate on the ecosystem and not the state that is imposing laws to favor the economic interests of the capitalist system.”
El Almorzadero is located in the eastern part of Santander and includes plateau communities such as Almorzadero, Mogotoroco, Anagá, Juradó, Los Coloradas, Mantilla, Tona, Berlin, and Chitagá. The environmental reserve will principally take up part of the municipalities of Chitagá and Silos (North Santander) and Cerrito, Guaca, Concepción and Tona (Santander).
This ecological reserve covers approximately 104,000 hectares, some 37.5% of the total surface area of García Rovira province; in which begin streams, rivers, and approximately 31 lagoons, all which feed into the Servita River Basin, tributary of the Chicamocha and the Colorado, Taveta, Chachabrí, Arauca, Cubujón, and the El Margua, which in turn flow into the Orinoco.
In this (officially undeclared) natural reserve, the national government has authorized open pit mining exploitation, one of the most destructive methods. The opening words at the forum, spoken by Iván Fernandez (AMASOMA), recognize that “the fundamental purpose for the Forum is to defend life, the plateau, and the communities.”
Two traditional elders from the U’wa people, Berito Cobaría and Roberto Pérez, who have intervened to block the mine, spoke of a history of resistance on the part of the indigenous people and of unity with small-scale farmers and students to oppose oil and mining exploitation. They warned that the projects of the multinational companies in the plateau will affect various hydrological basins for the whole region, which will contaminate water sources. “It’s time to tell the government to respect our territory and this is our chance; here we are, all the affected sectors, and the responsibility to protect the plateau is ours,” said Roberto Pérez.
At this time of opportunity, the defense of the Páramo El Almorzadero has the participation of organizations from Arauca, Boyacá, Casanare, Meta, Cundinamarca, Santander, and North Santander, who are converging with the intention of consolidating their conservation and sustainable management efforts.
According to AMASOMA the planned program for today includes a thematic introduction, in which the Vigilance Commission will present a recent history of the struggle to protect the Páramo El Almorzadero. That will be followed by a demonstration, done by biology students from the Santander Industrial University (UIS), about the Páramo of Santurbán. Then there will be a scientific presentation from Professor Joaquín Molano from the National University. Finally, the Student Network of the Antorcha District of Bogotá will direct a discussion of the political context of the reserve territory.
In the afternoon, there will be a second session of lectures about very concrete problems, starting with an environmental lecture by agro-forestry engineer Sergio Niño. This is followed by a world analysis by two indigenous Uw’a women, who will speak about the human-nature equilibrium, which their people have known about and have maintained over the centuries.
After that, a social lecture by lawyer Oscar Hernando Suárez Vega is expected, and then an economic one by economist Eliseo Villamizar Antolinez.
Also there will be the delegation of duties among commissions and sub-commissions where the organizers project that the 1,000 people from the different municipalities and departments represented at this Regional Environmental Forum will finalize what ANAMASA has deemed a “Pact for the Defense of the Environment, the Territory, and Sanity,” which will be printed in both Uw’a and Spanish.
Importance of the Plateaus
The páramos (high plateaus) are ecosystems which, because of lower temperatures and their unique vegetation, have the capacity to intercept, store, and regulate the surface and underground water flow. They sequester carbon even better than tropical rainforests, and they are a refuge for unique species of plants and animals. Environmental organizations emphasize their cultural, economic, and social importance, such as the fact that they are located in only 5 countries in all the world. Colombia itself contains 49% of the planet’s páramos with a surface area of millions of hectares, out of which only some 700,000 hectares are found in the protected zones of the National System of Natural Parks. On the other hand, out of the total surface area of plateaus in Colombia, some 109,000 hectares have been consigned to mining companies, with a total of 391 mining titles. While the plateaus account for only 1.7% of the national territory, about 70% of the water supply for human consumption in Colombia flows out of them.
Date Published: February 24, 2012
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