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  • La deforestación bajó en 2019: el reto que sigue es la disminución durante la pandemia

    Amazonia © Luis Barreto / WWF-UK

    La deforestación en Colombia bajó 19% de 2018 a 2019: Chocó entró al top de los seis más deforestados y Antioquia subió del quinto al cuarto lugar, según los datos del Ideam. El reto del país es que continúe la disminución de esta amenaza a pesar de la pandemia.

    Este jueves el Instituto de Hidrología, Meteorología y Estudios Ambientales (Ideam), anunció que la deforestación en Colombia disminuyó un 19%. Mientras en 2018 el área deforestada sumó 197.159 hectáreas, en 2019 la cifra bajó a 158.894 hectáreas. Las principales causas de la deforestación son la praderización (conversión de áreas de bosque a áreas de pastos), los cultivos ilícitos, las malas prácticas de ganadería extensiva, la extracción ilícita de minerales, el desarrollo de infraestructura no planificada y sin permisos, la ampliación de la frontera agrícola en áreas no permitidas y la tala ilegal.

    Entre los seis departamentos más deforestados en 2019 el conteo ubica consecutivamente a Caquetá, Meta, Guaviare, Antioquia, Chocó, Putumayo, según las cifras del Ideam. En 2018 estos primeros lugares los ocuparon Caquetá, Meta, Guaviare, Putumayo, Antioquia, Norte de Santander. De esta manera, Antioquia subió del quinto al cuarto departamento con más deforestación y Chocó alcanzó el quinto lugar (mientras que en 2018 se ubicó en el octavo lugar con más bosque deforestado). Estos seis departamentos concentraron el 74% de la deforestación del país en 2019.

    En cuanto a regiones, la Amazonia es una de las más importantes en este reporte pues cubre el 66% de los bosques del país. Allí, la deforestación disminuyó, según el informe: mientras que en 2018 hubo 138.176 hectáreas deforestadas, en 2019 la cifra fue de 98.256 hectáreas. De esta manera, la deforestación de la Amazonia colombiana en 2019 representó el 62% del total nacional.

    Para la ministra de Ambiente (E) María Claudia García, estos indicadores "no son un mensaje de triunfalismo ni de que debamos bajar la guardia. Sabemos que tenemos un reto grande por delante". Añadió que la reducción de la deforestación ha incluido un trabajo en el que "más de 3.000 familias campesinas están preservando bajo acuerdos de conservación más de 97.000 hectáreas de bosque natural, además están implementando proyectos agroambientales y forestales. Otras 17.000 familias indígenas tienen más de 14 millones de hectáreas en acuerdos de conservación".
     

    Las advertencias de posible aumento de deforestación en la pandemia


    A pesar de estos resultados destacados en la transmisión digital que hizo el Gobierno este jueves, aún quedan muchos retos para seguir reduciendo la deforestación en el país y mantener el esfuerzo en los siguientes años.

    En las últimas semanas, los medios de comunicación han señalado el posible aumento de la deforestación en los primeros meses de 2020, mientras los esfuerzos del gobierno se enfocan a combatir la pandemia por Covid-19. De hecho, un informe publicado por la Fundación para la Conservación y el Desarrollo Sostenible de la Amazonia (FCDS) señaló que, al 15 de abril de 2020, se superaron las 75.000 hectáreas deforestadas en la Amazonia.

    Adicionalmente, "hemos recibido informes del aumento de la caza furtiva ilegal de vida silvestre en estas áreas y del incremento de la producción ilegal de madera debido a la ausencia de autoridades en el campo durante la pandemia", señala Miguel Pacheco, especialista en Bosques de WWF Colombia. Así, los esfuerzos por conservar el bosque del país y sus especies deben seguir en medio de las distintas dinámicas que enfrenta Colombia y el mundo por cuenta de la emergencia sanitaria.
     

    El trabajo con los habitantes locales: una de las estrategias que apoya WWF


    WWF Colombia trabaja en diferentes proyectos con habitantes locales para prevenir la deforestación y fomentar medios de vida sostenibles y alternativos en algunas zonas que tienen las mayores cifras de deforestación como Caquetá y Guaviare. Allí, algunos campesinos, que anteriormente cultivaban coca o derribaban el bosque, encuentran alternativas sostenibles para vivir mientras lo protegen. La estrategia está enfocada en prevenir la deforestación, identificar zonas para restauración y trabajar en la conservación y el manejo sostenible del territorio junto a los habitantes locales y ha tenido el apoyo de la Fundación Príncipe Albert II de Mónaco.

    Mientras el mundo está paralizado por el covid-19, este grupo de campesinos, conocidos como exploradores forestales, ha retomado su trabajo en el bosque. Durante los últimos días, han continuado con sus jornadas de capacitación en prevención de incendios forestales, uso de GPS, cartografía básica, identificación de áreas para restauración, monitoreo forestal, entre otras actividades.
     

    ¿Cómo lograron avanzar en medio de una pandemia?


    El desafío es grande, pues hay algunos casos de Covid19 confirmados en los municipios cercanos a las zonas de trabajo. Por eso, WWF diseñó un estricto protocolo de bioseguridad para el desarrollo de actividades en campo. Antes del trabajo, los exploradores desinfectan los espacios donde estarán desarrollando las acciones; el distanciamiento social y la asepsia son fundamentales: no más de diez personas por actividad, distancia de dos metros entre cada uno, lavado de manos antes de empezar cada actividad, entrega de un kit con tapabocas, alcohol, gel antibacterial y gafas protectoras, y toma de temperatura periódica, son algunas de las medidas que se toman. El llamado urgente para actuar por los bosques: Planeta Sano, Gente Sana

    La pandemia actual nos ha recordado la profunda conexión que hay entre nuestra salud y la de ecosistemas como los bosques, pues tener una menor cantidad de ellos nos expone al contacto con la vida silvestre y, a su vez, a nuevas enfermedades zoonóticas (que pueden transmitirse entre animales y seres humanos).

    Justamente, esta semana, WWF publicó el nuevo informe 'Covid-19: llamado urgente para proteger a las personas y la naturaleza', en el que resalta que los factores ambientales que causan la aparición de enfermedades zoonóticas son el comercio y consumo de vida silvestre de alto riesgo, el cambio en el uso de la tierra debido a la deforestación, la producción animal y la expansión de la agricultura e intensificación insostenible.

    A través de la iniciativa Planeta Sano, Gente Sana, los ciudadanos pueden dirigirse a su Gobierno Nacional y pedirle acciones concretas que permitan cambiar el rumbo, así como evitar los riesgos de eventuales pandemias.

  • Without action, post-pandemic recovery risks contributing to crisis of natural world

    The third event in the high-level dialogues series focused on nature. © WWFGovernments risk failing to address the looming crisis facing the natural world as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and are missing opportunities to create the conditions to build more resilient, socially inclusive and nature-friendly economies. This was the message from speakers in the latest event in the High-Level Dialogues for a Green and Healthy Recovery series, hosted by OECD, WWF and the Environmental Defense Fund in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy and Conservation International.

    Enormous potential exists to put nature at the heart of recovery packages and build back better, speakers said.

    "It is very important that the message is clear – there is no future if it is not green and if it is not well founded in the limits of the planet, in terms of biodiversity and nature," said Teresa Ribera, Vice President, Government of Spain & Minister for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge. "That is what we are doing in Europe to facilitate a proper green recovery."

    However, Europe's approach with its Green New Deal – which includes the principle of "doing no harm" to the EU's environmental objectives – risks becoming an outlier, said Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, WWF's Global Head of Climate & Energy. The growing economic crisis in the wake of the pandemic creates "a temptation for backsliding on environmental regulations", he said, noting that "we have yet to develop a strong narrative that connects the economy with nature."

    This presents a fundamental challenge to mainstreaming nature in economic decision- making, argued Professor Patricia Balvanera, Co-Chair, Values Assessment, at the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Compared with climate change, which has penetrated our collective consciousness, "most of us don't really understand the full magnitude and consequences of the nature crisis," she said, although last year's IBPES report, which warned that 1 million species face extinction, has begun to change this.

    She also argued that "the dominant narrative of the role of nature in economic development" needs to change, from one where it is seen as "an inexhaustible factory of the food we eat, the ores we use to produce cell phones, the next vacation destination, or as a huge trash bin".

    The nature of the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of protecting nature. "The disruption of ecosystems and the exploitation of wildlife may well be the reason why we are in this mess to begin with," said Shardul Agrawala, Head of the Environment and Economy Integration Division at the OECD Environment Directorate. "If we don't make transformative changes now, we are likely to see further declines in nature, bringing ourselves ever closer to natural reservoirs of disease and disrupting processes within ecosystems that help keep these diseases in check," he added.

    Agrawala suggested two immediate measures that governments could take to ensure that COVID-19 recovery packages recognise the importance of nature for human health: "One first step would be to screen and monitor the recovery packages ... for their impact of nature," he said. A second measure would be to "turn a sharper focus on reforming subsidies that harm nature." He cited research from the OECD that found subsidies for activities that are harmful to biodiversity are five times greater than total spending to protect biodiversity.

    "We have a tremendous opportunity, now that oil prices are down, to look at subsidies on fossil fuels, and most importantly on gasoline," agreed Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). While raising the price of fuel can have "social costs", those costs are much lower when oil prices are depressed – and a number of developing seized the opportunity of low prices in 2015-17 to reduce such subsidies.

    Bárcena presented the economic and ecological costs faced by Latin America and the Caribbean – a region containing eight of the world's 17 most biodiverse countries – from unabated climate change. A rise in global average temperatures of 2.5C above pre- industrial levels could reduce the region's GDP by up to 5% over the next 10-20 years, she said, while species abundance in south and central America has already fallen by 89% since 1970 and would be impacted further.

    However, it is important to recognise that we have the tools and the knowledge to respond to these challenges, said Gabriel Quijandría, Vice Minister of Strategic Development of Natural Resources in Peru's Ministry of Environment. "There are not many new things to do but to deepen the transitions we are already involved, and go faster with them," he said, citing the shift to sustainable energy, to electric vehicles and in removing deforestation from supply chains.

    "We need to incorporate conservation as part of the toolkit for solving development problems," he said. He quoted figures from a 2017 study in Peru that found that every dollar invested in protected areas generated up to $40 in direct benefits to local people related to tourism. "Tell me if that's not a good business, and a good option for recovery."

  • Two Huge Wins for Hungarian Forests and Nature Conservation

    The ruling will make clear-cutting a far less frequent forest management practice. © Laszlo Galhidy/WWF-Hungary2020 June 16 - The Hungarian Constitutional Court declared that the conditions required for the preservation of natural values ​​in protected and Natura 2000 areas will be restored. The ruling will make clear-cutting a less frequent forest management practice, especially in state-owned forests.
     
    Although the Forest Act (2009) was created with the broad involvement of stakeholders and contained many forward-looking nature conservation provisions, it was amended under strong pressure from forest managers in 2017. Despite strong NGO protests, the amendment significantly reduced the legal means available to protect natural values and the conservation of the wildlife ​​in protected and Natura 2000 forest areas. Therefore, WWF-Hungary, BirdLife Hungary and Friends of the Earth Hungary filed a complaint with the Office of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights. After considering the constitutional concerns, the Commissioner's Office concluded that the amendment to the Forest Act infringes the prohibition of regression and the legal certainty, and forwarded the complaint to the Constitutional Court in 2019.
     
    "Although the aim of the amendment would have been the reduction of administrative burdens, several nature conservation regulations were relaxed or abolished. The reduction of the continuous cover forestry management methods, which are the best alternatives to clear-cutting was a particularly painful move. Many of us, both foresters and conservationists, fought for the mandatory introduction of this in state-owned forests in 2009." – László Gálhidy, Forest Programme Coordinator, WWF-Hungary.
     
    "Our organisations appreciate the detailed professional legal analysis of the Office of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and the decision of the Constitutional Court," – said Katalin Sipos, Director of WWF-Hungary. "We hope that nature conservation and forestry actors will also see the decision of the Constitutional Court as a norm; and blatant destruction of nature such as the deforestation of Tar-kő in Bükk Mountains or the old forests near Tiszaug will not be possible in the future."
     
    More good news
    Hortobágy National Park, one of Hungary's 10 national parks, was established almost a half century ago. However, the area's designation did not protect it from forestry and other commercial practices being carried out on its "protected" territory. After years of campaigning by environmental NGOs, the Government has finally introduced a "core area" zone in Hortobágy. The fundamental goal is to ensure that nature remains as undisturbed and with as little human intervention as possible. The decree that came into force in June, determines the type of land use that is allowed in certain parts of the national park. This ensures that a part of the world-famous forest-steppe can again become a true wilderness area. WWF-Hungary hopes that with this precedent, core zones will also be established in the country's other national parks in the near future.
     
    WWF Hungary launched its campaign by first focusing on the planned logging in Csarna Valley in Danube-Ipoly National Park in 2012. The campaign drew attention to the fact that despite national parks existing in Hungary since the 1970s, true undisturbed wilderness areas do not exist. Even though undisturbed habitats are much needed for the survival of rare and endangered species such as large carnivores, black storks, or white-tailed eagles, logging; grazing, arable farming continue within the boundaries of protected areas.
     
    In terms of surface area coverage, CEE is home to some of the last intact natural areas of their size in Europe. Natural treasures such as the Southwestern Carpathians, the Danube Delta and Maramures County (Romania) truly justify the region's labelling as the "Green Heart of Europe." The surface coverage of Natura 2000 sites in the region ranges from 21.41% (19,912 km2) in Hungary to 34.37% in Bulgaria (38,146km2). Slovakia (14,607 km2, 29.79%) and Romania (54,104 km2, 22.71%) also register above the average 19.04% EU Natura 2000 coverage.
     
    The preservation of functioning ecosystems and the maintenance of their natural processes are crucial for the survival of species and biomes in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) that cannot persevere in areas heavily impacted by human activity. In many cases, such protected areas represent the last hope for critically endangered or endemic species otherwise threatened by extinction. Protected areas provide important space for ecological adaptation and evolutionary processes, thus playing a critical role in the face of climate change. Moreover, they generate direct human benefits in the form of ecosystem services.
     
    "We appreciate the efforts of the Ministry of Agriculture, as a result of which the first national park in Hungary that meets international professional criteria has been established. In addition to the saline steppes and marshes, the Tilos Forest in Újszentmargita has also become part of the natural zone. So we can say that firstly we return an iconic piece of the forest-steppe landscape to nature – as our ancestors would have seen it. There will be no traditional land use, such as grazing or logging in this area, but nature-loving tourists can still visit the zone, as long as they follow the rules." – said László Gálhidy. "We hope that the progress that has begun in Hortobágy will soon continue in our other national parks and that similar zones will be established on Bükk Plateau, in Gemenc, in Őrség, and Kis-Balaton. We are very much looking forward to the juncture when the largest wilderness forest area in Hungary, the Csarna Valley will be also permanently exempted from logging, and instead offer a unique, attractive terrain for ecotourism." – the expert added.
     
    Biodiversity, forests and freshwater habitats must be protected in order to protect our own health as well as the planet's. This is why the EU Biodiversity Strategy under the European Green Deal must do more to protect critically endangered species and their habitats, and preserve ecosystems such as the Danube and forests. Future pandemics will only be avoided if people learn to live in harmony with nature.
     
    For more information:
    Alexa Berende
    PR Communications Officer,
    WWF-Hungary
    E-mail: alexa.berende@wwf.hu
    Mobile: +36 30 655 2407