Peace could destroy environment in Colombia, UN warns

23 Jan 2015 / 15:44 H.

    BOGOTA: Implementing some of the agreements reached during peace talks between the Colombian government and the leftist rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) could destroy a great part of the country's environment, the Colombian office of the United Nations has warned.

    The severe warning was sent to the government and FARC negotiators in Havana where the talks are being held so that it could be kept in mind while proceeding with their discussions, the UN chief representative in Colombia, Fabrizio Hochschild, said Wednesday.

    The agreements in the peace talks center around regions that have a very high environmental relevance, and could cause irreversible changes in Colombia's landscape, 50% of which is comprised of forests and other ecosystems that have global relevance, according to a UN study.

    The report focuses on areas where it is expected that the agreements reached in Cuba would be applied on a high-priority basis, covering a total of 125 municipalities in the south, northeast and northwest of the country afflicted by armed conflict, high poverty and lack of basic necessities and infrastructure.

    All of these areas fall within, or next to, large forest lands which for decades have been a safe haven for armed groups like FARC and the National Liberation Army (ELN).

    When the agreements are implemented, the UN explains, many of these territories would be affected by the new land distribution system and the change in crops that have been cultivated there over the years, for example coca from which cocaine is made.

    The UN says that in order to prevent the destruction of the country's natural heritage and socio-economic failure of many of the measures that may be implemented, it is necessary to plan the agreements in a proper manner.

    "The alert is more to do with planning the implementation of the agreements," Hochschild specified.

    "Here, it has to be kept in mind that several environment protection measures exist, such as forest reserves and national natural parks, that protect and preserve a great part of these localities," the report says.

    The report also presents four recommendations to prevent an environmental disaster.

    One of them deals with land use pattern, so that victims and former militants of the conflict who receive land cultivate it keeping in mind environmental safeguards.

    It also advises on forming development models that are sustainable and analyse in detail the role of mining in checking the conflict.

    Finally, it calls for greater involvement of environmental institutions in the implementation of the agreements.

    The Colombian government has shown interest in taking into account the possible negative consequences of an improperly thought out plan, Hochschild said. – Bernama

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