Thursday, June 12, 2014

Colombia can grow economy "through nature without destroying it" - environment vice minister

Anastasia Moloney at the Thomson Reuters Foundation: Colombia must tackle conflicts over land use and look for new ways to extract natural resources while protecting biodiversity as prospectors rush for territory in the country’s rainforests and mountains, says Colombia’s environment vice minister.

One of Latin America’s fastest-growing economies, Colombia is enjoying record foreign investment driven by a commodities boom and improved security. However, it needs to balance this growth and ensure natural resources are exploited in a sustainable way, while protecting indigenous land rights and ecosystems from the Amazon rainforest to Andean mountain glaciers, the vice minister said.

“I think that the development model Colombia has needs to be shifted towards a development model that’s more compatible in terms of how rich we are in natural resources,” Pablo Vieira told Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.

“Fifty percent of the country is covered with forests. We are probably the most biodiverse country in the world per hectare. Our economy is not really compatible with that.” The world's fifth-biggest coal producer and Latin America's fourth-largest oil producer, Colombia is attracting rising numbers of oil, coal and mineral companies looking to extract resources for export.

Furthermore, unexplored frontiers could open up and more investors come in if ongoing peace talks between the government and Colombia’s largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), succeed in ending 50 years of war.

Vieira urged innovation in the extraction of natural resources – so that it’s not just “cutting forests and extraction”. ..

A forest in Colombia, shot by icolasgalindo, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr,  under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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