The European Union (EU) has made the first payment in a plan to protect large stretches of grasslands in the Andes Mountains of Ecuador, Peru and Colombia.
The objective of project is to protect watersheds and environmentally sensitive land above the treeline, known as paramos. In its first payment, the EU invested $7.1 million, saying it was a downpayment on a multi-year venture. Ecuador, Colombia and Peru are providing matching funds.
“These high mountain areas are critical ecosystems that affect the health of the planet,” said María Antonia Van Gool, an EU representative in Colombia. “There will be development in some of these areas and our mission is to make sure this follows guidelines that this project will provide.”
She added that in addition to providing guidance for preservation, the plan will help to mediate conflicts between countries over water resources.
In Ecuador, the protected areas are around Munt Chimborazo, the country’s highest mountain, and in the cross-border corridor with Colombia of the Angel, Chiles, and Quitasol Mountains.
Other regions covered by the agreement are the Piura district of southern Peru, Rabanal, Colombia, and Los Nevados, Colombia.
“This program is consistent with the strategy of the European Union to support sustainable development that will result in improved quality of life of the population, as well as conservation, restoration and sustainable use of strategic ecosystems,” said Alejandro Gamboa, director of the Colombian Presidential Agency for International Cooperation.
The program will be developed in stages by the Alexander von Humboldt Biological Resources Research Institute of Colombia and the Worldwide Wildlife Fund over the next three and a half years, said Colombia Minister of the Environment, Gabriel Vallejo.