Colombia receives the unenviable title of being the top Latin American country (and second only to India, worldwide) with most environmental conflicts – according to the Environmental Justice Atlas, funded by the European Union. 72 conflicts have been recorded, between communities and multinationals or the State, affecting more than 7.9 milion people. The study also charts 105 cases of assassination, disappearances or death threats against defenders of the environment.
Fumigating with glysophate, inappropriate tourism development, hydro-electric projects and logging are just some of the causes of environmental conflict in Colombia. More than half the cases of conflict are caused by the extractive industries – gold and coal. These include: AngloGold Ashanti’s gold mining concession for La Colosa gold mine in Tolima, in the heart of Colombia’s central forestry reserve and affecting 161 water sources; and the ongoing fight to protect Yaigoje Apaporis National Park, where indigenous communities are against the gold mining by Cosigo Resources. Deforestation is another hot issue, and figures from a recent UN report show that Colombia currently has twice the world average rate of deforestation. Omar Franco, of IDEAM, confirms that natural vegetation is being destroyed at a rate of 0.25%, with more than half of this deforestation taking place in Chocó and Amazon departments of Vichada, Caquetá, Meta, and Casanare – where drought has caused the death of hundreds of chiguiros and other animals, as reported in a special feature in Semana magazine, “Pesadilla Ambiental”.