Colombia’s deforestation fell to historic low in 2023, environment minister says


BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Deforestation in Colombia fell 36% in 2023 from the previous year, the government reported Monday, the lowest level since measurements began.

The decline was caused by a decrease in environmental destruction in the Amazon, the largest rainforest in the worldabout a third of which are in Colombia, the government of the leftist president Gustavo Petro said.

Deforestation nationwide fell to about 792 square kilometers (about 305 square miles) in 2023, down from about 1,235 square kilometers (about 477 square miles) a year earlier. Just over half of the deforestation occurred in the Amazon.

The reduction “means that 44,262 hectares of forest will no longer be cut down,” Environment Minister Susana Muhamad told reporters. “It is very good news, but we certainly cannot say that the battle has been won. We will continue to tackle illegal economies.”

If he is elected in 2022, Petro pledged to halt record-high deforestation rates in the Amazon region by limiting the expansion of agriculture into the forest and creating reserves where indigenous communities and others can harvest rubber, acai and other non-timber forest products.

Promote peace talks between the government and guerrilla groups in the area, along with financial incentives for Amazon farmers to help with conservation, helped drive the decline. It came after deforestation fell by about 29% in 2022.

Environmental experts have said in recent years that the decline in deforestation was also likely linked to orders from dissident groups of FARC guerrillas banning deforestation. Muhamad said Monday that the strong government military presence in these areas and progress made in peace talks will be key to maintaining a downward trend.

But next year’s numbers don’t look so promising. A significant increase in deforestation has already been recorded due to the effects of dry weather caused by El Niño, Muhamad said, a weather phenomenon that is warming the central Pacific Ocean. Mass cattle ranching, drug crops and illegal mining and logging continue to drive deforestation in the Andean country, Muhamad said.

The data was released as Colombia prepares for the United Nations COP16 conference on biodiversity in the southwestern city of Cali, which starts on October 21.


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