Colombia leading plan to create ‘ecological corridor’ and establish the world’s largest protected area

Colombia proposes an ambitious plan that would establish the world’s largest ‘ecological corridor’, protecting vast swathes of Amazon rainforest stretching from the Andes to the Atlantic coast, with the help of Brazil and Venezuela.

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Colombia has announced plans to lead a project that would see the creation of the world’s largest ‘ecological corridor’ across northern South America as part of the region’s contribution to the global fight against climate change. The reserve, which was proposed last week by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, would cover some 135 million hectares (1.35m km²), linking the Andes Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean via the northern Amazon Rainforest. It would become the largest protected area in the world, a title currently held by the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, which covers 1.27m km².

The initiative would have several purposes, according to Santos, including the preservation of biodiversity in the area and a “great contribution to the fight of all humanity to preserve our environment”. The protected area would be located predominantly in Brazilian and Colombian territory, with 62% of the reserve in Brazil and 34% in Colombia, as well as 4% in southern Venezuela. It has been dubbed the “Triple-A corridor”, due to the fact that its proposed path would take in significant portions of the Andean, Amazonian and Atlantic regions of northern South America.

Santos said that he hoped to present the outline of this programme to the governments of Brazil and Venezuela, including those countries’ respective presidents Dilma Rousseff and Nicolás Maduro. Two high-ranking officials in the Colombian government, the Foreign Minister María Ángela Holguín and the Environment Minister Gabriel Vallejo, were due to initiate talks with their counterparts in the two other participating countries this week. The initiative comes at a time when Brazil is in the grips of a historic and potentially catastrophic drought, for which mismanagement of the Amazon rainforest may be partly to blame.

If all goes well, Santos has said he hopes to be able to formally present the Triple-A initiative to the rest of the world at the upcoming COP21 climate summit, which will be held in Paris this November and December and is set to be the most important attempt yet by the world’s governments to reach a global deal on tackling climate change.

A map of the proposed ‘Triple-A’ ecological corridor, stretching from the Colombian Andes through the northern Amazon rainforest towards the Atlantic coast in the far north of Brazil. Image courtesy of Global Forest Watch via Mongabay.

At the previous summit in Lima, Peru, at the end of 2014, Colombia was one of many tropical countries to commit to reducing net deforestation to zero, and the Triple-A initiative is seen as a key part of attempts to implement such a strategy. Deforestation in Colombia has reached rates of more than 2,000 km² per year, and studies have shown that the extreme degradation of forests in the southern state of Caquetá has reached such alarming levels that the ecological and biological links between Andean and Amazonian ecosystems could be permanently lost. Brazil, meanwhile, has also remained in the spotlight over its efforts to contain Amazonian deforestation, and in September was particularly criticised for failing to join Colombia (and numerous other countries) in signing a UN Declaration on Forests that pledged to halve global deforestation rates by 2020 and eliminate it completely by 2030.

The idea for a Triple-A corridor has been around for some time, with one of the main proponents being Martín von Hildebrand, the director of the Amazon branch of the global environmental NGO Gaia Foundation. Von Hildebrand was also Director of Indigenous Affairs throughout the government of former Colombian President Virgilio Barco from 1986 to 1990, during which time he oversaw the legal recognition of more than 20m hectares of indigenous territory in Colombia.

President Santos described the initiative as a “concrete, realistic proposal that conveys to the world the enormous contribution the corridor would make towards preserving humanity and mitigating climate change”. He also underlined the national significance that such a project would hold for Colombia, claiming “as Colombians we need to go all out in order to stop climate change, because we will be among the first to suffer the consequences given our rich biodiversity”, referring to the country’s status as one of the most biodiverse in the world.

Deforestation in the Amazon, as seen here in Brazil, is a major threat not only to regional ecosystems but also to the global climate. Photo courtesy of Greenpeace via the BBC.

17 thoughts on “Colombia leading plan to create ‘ecological corridor’ and establish the world’s largest protected area

  1. Heiko Bleher says:

    except for parts of Colombia (where most of the forest is still standing, in Peru, in Brazil along the Solimões and Amazon River all the way to the Atlantic the Primary forest is already history, all cattle land, soy and sugarcane plantations, and other agricultural land. This is crazy… Again a media thing of protecting something that does not exist anymore. I have traveled now almost 500 times along this ‘corridor’ in the Amazon (every year since 1954) and know it extreme well, maybe better then anyone else on the planet. (One can also see on my websites and as well as on wikipedia and Facebook).
    Heiko Bleher

    1. gilesconstantine says:

      Hi Heiko. Thanks for your comment, as you may be able to see from my replies below I have to stress that all I’ve done is report on a story that I found, which I thought was both really interesting and of potentially great importance – this is just a personal and informal blog, after all! I can’t say I know all the in’s and out’s of what state this part of the Amazon is now in, but as far as I’m concerned one of the main aims of this programme is to ensure that this stretch of the Amazon is properly protected, so that it can begin to recover from the years and years of deforestation and degradation that it has suffered.

    1. gilesconstantine says:

      A the time of writing (almost 2 months ago!) that was the best map I could find, I’ve now found and uploaded a better illustration of where the protected area would fall in relation to the Amazon.

    1. gilesconstantine says:

      Hola Alejandro. La verdad es que yo sólo querría reportar sobre esta noticia porque me pareció interesante y una buena idea para preservar una región muy débil y amenazada. La iniciativa es una que ha sido impulsada por el gobierno colombiano, y la idea viene de un plan promovido por una ONG local – Gaia Amazonas – y especificamente por Martín von Hildebrand, quien ha trabajado muchos años por ayudar y empoderar a las comunidades indígenas.
      Comprendo su preocupación por el tema de políticos u organizaciones occidentales que dictan el qué hacer a los países latinoamericanos, pero en mi opinión éste no es uno de esos casos – es un programa perteneciente al gobierno colombiano, y NO un programa dictado e impuesto por “los gringos”.

    2. rogeriomaestri says:

      Depois de ter transformado a Europa no continente de menor diversidade ecológica, extinto milhares de espécies nas ilhas do Pacífico, drenado grande parte dos recursos naturais de todo mundo, querem criar um corredor? E por que um corredor contínuo que vai das bases norte-americanas na Colômbia ao oceano Atlântico? Não seria para dividir a América Latina em dois grandes pedaços para ficar mais fácil de intervir separadamente na parte superior e depois na inferior.
      Vão primeiro proibir nas suas terras os SUVs que poluem e gastam o petróleo do mundo inteiro. Vão punir o povo do primeiro mundo pelo consumo desenfreado de recursos naturais.
      Primeiro façam isto, tirem suas patas da América Latina, não chega o que estão fazendo no México onde a Alca fabrica porcarias para vender aos norte-americanos e os traficante mantém parte da população norte-americana em permanente letargia pelo consumo de drogas.
      Como disse um índio aqui no sul do Brasil: “Esta terra tem dono”.

  2. Deborah Marchant says:

    Hola. This sounds like an honorable and complicated project.

    Here are a couple of questions.

    1. Are there local peoples of these areas that are involved, and consulted for this proposed protection?

    2. Heiko Bleher mentioned above that there is already a loss of forests in the proposed areas. Will the forests be replanted, when and wherever possible?

    Thank you.

    1. gilesconstantine says:

      Hola Deborah. As I said in reply to Alejandro’s comment, I’m only really reporting on this story as I thought it was interesting and a great idea – this is very much a personal blog and I’m definitely not pretending to be an expert on these topics, or that what I’ve written in the article is somehow definitive. So as far as your questions are concerned: I can’t say I know for sure! However, given that the initiative is one that appears to have been developed in part by NGOs such as Gaia Amazonas – and with Martín von Hildebrand at the fore, having previously worked for many years on indigenous empowerment of their territories ( ) – my guess is that local and indigenous communities have been and are being included in the consultation process. As for the loss/regeneration of forested areas, the idea is that by fully protecting these areas, they will be able to recover from the decades of deforestation and debilitation that they have suffered – I’m not sure whether the programme includes plans to actively replant trees. Whether or not any of this is achievable is another matter (and not one on which I’m in a position to give an authoritative opinion!!)

  3. Richard H. Stafursky says:

    Good plan, however, the triage map created may encourage people to act as it the forests outside this triage map corridor is a free-fire zone. Remember, there will still exist species’ forests beyond this corridor.

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