(Translated by Brooke Rozenboom, a CSN Volunteer Translator, Edited by David Van Den Brandt)
The re-delimitation of Santurbán: An absurdity of the Santos government against the Santandereano people
by Erwing Rodriguez-Salah
April 2, 2014
In Santurbán, the government of president Santos has spent four years ridiculing the santandereanos, and yet wants to be re-elected for four more years, relying on their votes. The great paradox is that the Santos government re-delimitated what was already delimitated by legislation, and the Santurbán páramo (unique mountain ecosystem found between 3000 to 5000 meters above sea level) is not protected in its entirety. See clarification in Letters to the Magazing SEMANA – second letter-, under the title: “Sí, están delimitados.”
Some considerations regarding the re-delimitation:
1. The point of view with which we should look at the re-delimitation of Santurbán is not the one that the Minister of the Environment wants to sell to us. He says that with 44,000 hectares, protection for the páramo quadrupled what the Regional National Park of Santurbán offered – 11,700 hectares. The correct point of view is to consider what part of the páramo of Santurbán was left unprotected. Remember that under the jurisdiction of the Corporation for the Defense of the Meseta de Bucaramanga, or regional CAR, in Santander there are 63,200 hectares that make up the biogeographical unit Santurbán-Almorzadero.
In addition, we still don’t know the coordinates of the new delimitation, and we do not even know of an official document that identifies it. The chances of running a line in the interior of a total of 44,000 hectares are infinite, and in this way can favor the activities of the mega-mining in the area.
2. To say that only 10 mining titles out of the 28 that are in the entire area were included in the delimitation is another absurdity.
3. Likewise, it’s misleading to expect to protect the páramo in a simplistic way, starting at the level of 2,900, and in some areas 3,200 meters above sea level. This deceives public opinion since the ecosystems of páramos go beyond an elevation reading of meters above sea level. For example, if you take into account the level of the páramo as 2,900, as mentioned, a company can get into the mountain at the level of 2,800 meters above sea level, by means of underground mining, and once inside can surpass the level of 2,900 meters above sea level since they will be able to make tunnels upward or, as a last resort, in whatever direction, with the danger of leaving us with just an eggshell of páramo.
See separately “Quedaríamos con un cascarón de páramo” [We’d be left with an eggshell of páramo] from the interview with Camila Zuluaga for the special for the journal El Espectador.
We are not against mining, but it is necessary to clarify that there are strategic and vital ecological zones for the country like the páramos – our water factories – where one should not be allowed to mine, regardless of the method of exploitation that is to be utilized. The páramos as water factories should be untouchable.
Santandereanos will only be calm when all the mining companies located in the area abandon the region.
It’s important to have in mind that not only should the páramos ecosystems be protected, but also the bordering ecosystems, which are also vital and indispensable for the functioning of the water cycle, like hydrographic basins and microbasins. For this reason, neither the mega-mining projects nor the gold of Santurbán will ever have the social license of the Santandereano people.
We have, through the Minister of the Environment, a person that acts or poses as an environmentalist. But in reality, she serves as a mechanist for Santos’s mining locomotive. In addition, she acts as a worthy exponent of what we have termed in our country the revolving door. It seems that what is happening in Casanare and in other parts of the country is not with us, to put simply, the consequences of climate change.
Let’s remember that approximately 70% of the Colombian population is located in settlements that have direct influence from the páramos. Therefore the obvious question is: is it worth putting the water that 70% of the Colombian population consumes at risk? Think about our future generations.
Remember, also, that Santurbán will mark the guidelines of what happens not only with the rest of the páramos of the country, but also with the other vital and strategic ecosystems it has. Only 1.8% of Colombian territory is páramo and this represents 49% of the páramos in the world, ecosystems that are present in only 5 countries.
In 2012, the magazine SEMANA reported in its article “Páramo Santurbán en el limbo”, as the Controller’s office assured, at the time, that the mining companies would not let their technicians enter.
What happened with this accusation? Santurbán cannot become the “Caguán of Mega-mining in Colombia”.
What effort has been made as for the recommendations given by the ANLA in the technical concept document “503” in 2012, and directed to the CDMB, for the relevant purposes?
There is a history concerned with what the final outcome will be in Santurbán as the previous concept non-binding of Minminas, in December 2011 – see attached archive – for the declaration of the PNR of Santurbán, favoring a mega-mining project in the páramo.
To finish, Juan Manuel Santos, on the day of his inauguration as President of the Republic, articulated in one of the excerpts of his speech:
“As a wise naturalist said, the world is not an inheritance from our fathers, but a loan from our children. Therefore, we will work for the environment, to pay off this debt that we cannot put off anymore to the new generations”.
But to the rhythm that the devastating mining locomotive wants to impose, we are going to indebt ourselves with our children to the point that we will never be able to pay them—the loan to which the wise naturalist alluded.
(This translation may be reprinted as long as its content remains unaltered and the source, author and translator are cited.)