Big Wins 2017: Freshwater
Isagen, El Espectador, WWF-Colombia, and People & Earth carried out Encounters for Water in Medellin, Manizales, Bucaramanga, and Bogota in the framework of the BIBO Alliance. The aim of these workshops was to collect information to strengthen the National Policy for the Integrated Management of Hydrologic Resources. The final workshop was carried out in Bogota and included a public panel discussion for presidential candidates their plans and perspectives on water governance.
Eastern Antioquia - © Luis Ángel / WWF-Colombia
On a more local level, the Dialogues for the Water Stewardship, carried out in 2016 in Eastern Antioquia by WWF-Colombia, Cornare, Isagen, and EPM, made additional advances to strengthen water governance in 2017 in the implementation stage. Actors directly or indirectly interested in the water sources of the region –where 30% of the country’s energy is produced– held dialogues and reached 13 agreements for the sustainable management of water related to several areas, including a local network of conservation areas and sustainable agricultural practices.
On another front, we advanced significantly in the protection of the Atrato River, one of the largest in the world and a critical artery that brings life to the Pacific region of Colombia, which is threatened by illegal mining, deforestation and forest degradation. In April 2017, a court ruled in favor of a legal petition and issued a sentence that grants the river its status as “subject to rights”. With this decision, the government recognizes that Afro-descendent and indigenous communities are tied to their territories and thus depend on the conservation and proper management of natural resources.
Likewise, it is worth highlighting another legislative step forward in favor of water and the health of Colombians. During the third Congressional debate, the House of Representatives approved the ratification of the Minamata Convention, an international treaty aimed at reducing mercury emissions and their effects on human health and the environment. This decision has far-reaching implications in several river basins, particularly in the departments of Chocó and Antioquia, where mercury is used for the illegal extraction of gold. In early 2018, the remaining steps will be needed for the successful ratification of the convention. If the law is approved during the final congressional debate, a presidential approval and a final review by the Constitutional Court should follow before notifying the Secretary General of the United Nations in New York.
Tarapoto - © Viviana Londoño / WWF - Colombia
Conservation of freshwater ecosystems was also a major target. Thanks to the work of WWF-Colombia and Omacha Foundation, among other efforts, the Lagos de Tarapoto wetlands will soon be designated as a wetland of national importance under the Ramsar Category. It is one of the places with the greatest number of river dolphins in the Colombian Amazon.
Additionally, as a result of WWF-Colombia’s work strengthening local capacities in the Estrella Fluvial Inírida (EFI) Ramsar location, more than 15 national and regional institutions signed 24 agreements between government authorities and local communities in the EFI related to territorial planning, self-governance, fisheries management, and sustainable livelihoods. These accomplishments result from the most recent Citizenship Action Panel carried out in mid-2017 with support from WWF-Colombia. After three years, the panel discussions show significant progress in the capacity-strengthening strategy for local indigenous and rural leaders. Thanks to this initiative, local indigenous researchers with the Omacha Foundation have established monitoring processes for fisheries and, a preliminary monitoring program for jaguars.
Estrella Fluvial Inírida, Colombia - © Simon de Man / WWF-Colombia
Continue reading about the achievements and progress we made during 2017 here.