On July 18, Colombia's constitutional court upheld restrictions on the aerial spraying of the herbicide glyphosate to eliminate coca, the base ingredient in cocaine. All eight of the court's judges held that the national narcotics council would decide whether spraying could restart, noting that it was not necessary to prove with absolute certainty that the herbicide was not harmful, but that the council should consider all available scientific evidence about minimizing risks to health and the environment.
The Inter-American Court on Human Rights, in a landmark decision, concluded that a healthy environment is an autonomous right, “fundamental to the existence of humanity.” The decision was the result of Colombia’s consultation on the scope of States’ obligations to protect human rights from damages to the marine environment in the Greater Caribbean region.
On July 13, the Colombian government announced the expansion of two indigenous reserves in the buffer zone of Serrania de Chiribiquete, the country’s largest national park. The Los Monos and Monochoa indigenous reserves are both located near the province of Caquetá, which has the highest rate of deforestation in Colombia. The move is part of the government's larger climate change adaptation initiative. The expansion creates a conservation corridor larger than Honduras.
The Marginal de la Selva, a $1 billion dollar highway project that would connect Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador without having to enter the Andes mountains, could mean deforestation and industrial development in regions important for indigenous groups, and threaten biodiversity. The unfinished section that would complete the project cuts through a natural corridor between two national parks, which both contain exceptionally high levels of biodiversity.
New information from Colombia’s National Hydrocarbon Agency reveals that the government has granted at least 43 hydraulic fracturing concessions to several multinational companies. The country’s oil and gas sector has been promoting the need to use hydraulic fracturing as conventional oil resources have dwindled. Exploratory drilling is already taking place in the Cundinamarca province, despite protests from local communities.
Colombia banned mining and oil companies from extracting resources from the Andes. This decision follows a lawsuit against the Colombian National Development Plan, which allowed for extractive activities in the moorlands. When the National Development Plan passed, more than 71,000 people joined campaigns to protest the law. The recent court decision cancels 473 preexisting mining titles for the moorlands. In effect, this means that even the mining companies that have environmental licenses and their paperwork in order will not be able to conduct mining explorations.
Colombia has proposed creating the world's largest protected area in an effort to preserve biodiversity and combat climate change. President Juan Manuel Santos plans to propose the project at the UN climate negotiations in Paris at the end of 2015, suggesting the country will seek credit for the forests the area would preserve.
Colombia has ordered Drummond Co.—the country’s second biggest producer of coal—to stop loading coal in Colombian ports until the company complies with a new environmental law. In an effort to prevent spills, the new rules prohibit coal exporters from using barges and cranes to load ships and instead require them to institute a conveyor belt system. While other coal companies, including BHP and Glencore Xstrata PLC, met the rules' January 1 deadline, Drummond estimates that its new loading system should be in place by March.