How Significant is the Reduction in Deforestation in Colombia?

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Although preliminary figures for deforestation in Colombia show a reduction, the outlook is still disturbing.

deforested area

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LatinAmerican Post | July Vanesa López Romero

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Leer en español: ¿Qué tan significativa es la reducción de la deforestación en Colombia?

On May 16, the Colombian Ministry of the Environment released preliminary deforestation figures for 2022, which were reported by Ideam. According to the report, this activity was reduced by 10% throughout the country and 25% in the Amazon compared to 2021. For the Ministry, this last figure is very relevant because 65% of the deforestation of the South-American nation. The departments in which it is practiced the most are Guaviare, Meta, Caquetá and Putumayo. It was precisely the first three in which the reduction was most noticeable, 34%, 25% and 31% respectively.

Likewise, the data shows that, in 2022, 156,693 hectares of the national territory were affected, compared to 174,103 in 2021. In addition, the Minister of the Environment assured that in the first quarter of this year 393 hectares were lost, a very low figure compared to the loss in 2022, which was 9,260 hectares during the same period of time.

Also read: Chilean Patagonia: Does it Have More Capacity to Capture CO₂ than the Amazon?

This gives the Petro government a very good image, especially considering that environmental justice and the fight against climate change were two of the banners of the current president's candidacy. However, it must be taken into account that the reduction in the first quarter of the year was also influenced by the atypical humid climate in the Amazon, where there is normally a drought at this time of the year.

According to the Ministry of the Environment, this reduction occurred thanks to the Deforestation Containment Plan, which has five pillars as its axis:

  • Social conservation agreements with the communities and the consolidation of the forest economy and biodiversity.

  • The inclusion of deforestation in the Paz Total program.

  • The deployment of the Public Force in the territories.

  • The strengthening of criminal investigation to define the determinants of deforestation.

  • Greater presence of the State in the territory through its entities.

A disturbing panorama

Despite the fact that these preliminary figures show significant achievements and reductions in this activity, the truth is that the outlook remains disturbing. As we already mentioned, the reduction of deforestation has focused especially on the Amazon, but the forests of other regions such as the Caribbean and Andes are also affected by this activity, both legally and illegally. In this sense, the duty of the government and the Ministry of the Environment is to focus on these areas and on solutions that take into account the drivers of deforestation specific to these regions.

Likewise, the other great challenge for the remainder of the year is to prevent the figure from increasing in the second half of the year. As we already mentioned, the atypical climate of the Amazon region has played a key role in the decline in deforestation. The moisture that has set in makes it more difficult to cut down trees. According to Ideam, there is an 86% probability that the El Niño Phenomenon will begin in June and extend until the beginning of 2024, so droughts would be a reality and deforestation would skyrocket if there were no plans to counteract this situation. In addition to logging, forest fires would also increase.

On the other hand, illegal deforestation and its connection to the presence of armed groups and activities such as drug trafficking are factors that cannot be ignored, much less in the face of the challenge presented by the Paz Total and the negotiations with the ELN. The environmental issue (and especially that of deforestation) must cross all the conversations and be a main axis in the search for agreements.

In conclusion, it is very important that there is no feeling of conformism with these figures, but that they are an impulse so that they are increasingly significant and are extended to the national territory as a whole.