Fragile wetlands face major threat from climate change in Colombia

World Today

Colombia is home to a unique ecosystem which is a treasure in the northern Andes.

These wetlands provide 70 percent of the country’s water supply. But they’re under threat from mining, agriculture projects, and climate change.

CGTN’s Michelle Begue reports on how the government is working with locals to protect them.

Colombia is one of only four countries in the world with an ecosystem called the Paramo.

Paramos are high altitude wetlands. Their rich soil captures moisture from the air which purifies the water and regulates its flow. While this habitat only occupies 1.7 percent of Colombia’s total territory it has a very important job.

“This is an ecosystem that exists to regulate and produce water. All of the vegetation and the earth is designed to collect and store water,” Mario Gonzales, spokesperson Project Adaptation for Climate Change said.

The fragile ecosystem has long been at risk from mining and agricultural projects and now climate change. According to the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change, Colombia will be left without glaciers and paramos by 2040.

Since 2014, Colombia’s Ministry of the Environment with the support of the Global Environmental Facility has implemented a project called Adaptation to Climate Change in the Highlands. The project aims study the effects of climate change in the region and mitigate them.

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“What we found is that in some places there will be less precipitation or rain falling on the paramos, ” Gonzales said.

The project has enlisted the help of 60 different families in the paramo conservation.

“These measures also help the families by providing an income and a guarantee of water in the future when water sources become scarce,” Gonzales said.

Outside of Colombia’s capital Bogota, farmers like Juana Rodriguez have become environmental guardians for the paramos: Chingaza, Sumapaz and Cruz Verde. The project works with them on adequate water management techniques, protection of the unique flora in the region and restoration where there has been loss of ecosystem.

“The project has taught us to protect the flora and fauna, the water which is the principle life source for all living things, ” Juana Rodriguez, Program Participant said.

A resource that is vital for the 11 million people living in Bogota’s urban area.