Deforestation in Colombia went up 44% in 2016 compared to the year before, newspaper El Tiempo reported on Thursday.
Based on statistics provided by the country’s institute for meteorological and environmental studies, the IDEAM, the newspaper said the South American country lost 178,597 hectares of forest last year against 124,035 the year before.
Almost three quarters of the country’s municipalities reportedly lost more than one hectare of virgin forest, primarily due to coca cultivation, large-scale agriculture, road infrastructure projects and illegal mining.
The rapid increase in deforestation goes against promises made by the national government at the 2015 Paris climate change summit where it promised to reduce deforestation in the Amazon region to zero.
Germany, Norway and the United Kingdom jointly vowed to support Colombia’s promised effort with $100 million.
At a meeting of Brazilian and Colombian governors and mayors of the Amazon region, Environment Minister Luis Gilberto Murillo said the government planned a $24 million investment in the Amazon region of the country.
We are going to make an investment of about $24 million in the region and that investment will be focused on sustainable agricultural development to be able to generate productive projects that benefit the communities and will benefit almost 9,000 families in the Amazon region.
Environment Minister Luis Gilberto Murillo
The largely lawless Amazon region continued to be the most affected by deforestation, accounting for 39% of lost hectares last year.
In the area, the country’s now-demobilized rebel group FARC has traditionally been the de-facto authority and in parts of its territory was also the main environmental authority, banning lumbering and taxing coca plantations.
However, the group’s abandonment of its former territory has created a power vacuum which, according to environmentalists, has contributed to the deforestation.
According to El Tiempo, the majority of municipalities on red alert because of their deforestation rates lie in the heart of former FARC territory.
This was confirmed by the director of IDEAM, Omar Franco, who blamed the “flexibilization of forest use regulations, increased accessibility to remote areas, the arrival of illegal actors, and the holding and replacement of illicit crops.”
The military is undergoing a major reorganization to confront the post-FARC reality and improve its capability to effectively exercise control over former FARC territory and combat remaining illegal armed actors like the paramilitary Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia and the smaller guerrilla group ELN.