A 253,000 hectare site in the eastern Guainia state has officially been confirmed as protected under an international treaty after being signed by President Juan Manuel Santos, a presidential declaration announced.
The Estrella Fluvial de Inirida River is now the sixth site in Colombia protected by the Ramsar International Wetland Convention, and according to Santos, “the second most important accomplishment with regards to environmental protection of my government.”
Santos stated in the declaration that, “wetlands are a source of water. They are the habitat of diverse forms of unique species, and also that of indigenous communities. We have here a treasure for Colombia, and for all of humanity.”
Environment Minister Luz Sarmiento and Minister of Mines and Energy Amylkar Acosta met to discuss the matter in January, “I have met with the Minister of Mining, and as a government we have decided that the Star River of the South deserves environmental protection. This is a site with many non-renewable resources, but the importance of the water sources for the future of the country is fundamental,” said Sarmiento.
Under the environmental protection regulations, the plan will allow indigenous groups who inhabit the area to engage in sustainable development. Artisan mining will remain illegal, but it will encourage development of ecotourism economic activity, sustainable fishing, and forest agriculture and animal husbandry.
In the zone live 15 tribes belonging to the Puinave and Curripaco people. At least 470 species of fish and 900 have also been identified. Furthermore, the rivers of Inirida and Atabapo produce nearly 50% of the ornamental fish exported by Colombia.