BOGOTA – Colombia’s government presented on Wednesday a report showing that 197,159 hectares (761 square miles) of forest were lost in 2018, although it pointed out that the level of deforestation was down from the previous year.
The report prepared by the Environment and Sustainable Development Ministry’s Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies noted that there was a reduction in the amount of forest cut down in four of the South American country’s regions.
In the Andean region, located in central Colombia, the deforested surface area fell from 36,745 hectares in 2017 to 28,089 hectares last year, a drop of 23.5 percent.
In the Amazon, a total of 138,176 hectares of forest were lost last year, 5,971 hectares fewer than in 2017.
Deforestation fell by 4,288 hectares (27.3 percent) last year in the Caribbean region, while in the Pacific region the reduction was 6,020 hectares (44.6 percent).
The report also said that in the municipalities of San Vicente del Caguan, Cartagena del Chaira and San Jose del Guaviare, all hard hit by the nation’s armed conflict and located in southern Colombia, deforestation dropped by 15,915 hectares relative to 2017.
The government said the main causes of deforestation in Colombia are the clearing of land to make it suitable for coca cultivation, carry out “bad (ranching) practices,” illegally extract minerals, build unauthorized roads and illegally expand the agricultural frontier.
The government hailed its efforts to stem the tide of deforestation in the Andean nation.
“This is the start of a great comprehensive effort by the government ... to implement policies and actions of legality and enterprise to achieve high standards of equity in the territories most affected by this problem,” Environment and Sustainable Development Minister Ricardo Lozano said.
In that regard, the official stressed the creation of the National Council for the Struggle against Deforestation and the launch of the “Artemisa” operation, which aims to check the advance of that scourge in the country.
Colombia accounts for 0.7 percent of the world landmass yet is home to around 10 percent of global flora and fauna species.
The country ranks second worldwide in terms of biodiversity, is listed as one of the world’s 12 most “megadiverse” nations and has the third-largest supply of water globally.