Colombia launches strategy to tackle environment

Colombia’s national police has deployed 100 criminal intelligence and investigation officers in a strategy to tackle environment crimes in the Andean country, the government said on Monday, citing illegal mining and animal trafficking among the gravest threats.

Fifty officers will investigate environmental crimes while 40 will work on intelligence gathering. The remaining 10 will monitor websites, including social media, for trafficking and selling of wildlife.

“Environmental crimes don’t just affect Colombia’s heritage … the environment is the heritage of all humanity,” Brigadier General Jesus Alejandro Barrera, director of Colombia’s rural police, told journalists.

Colombia, one of the world’s most biologically diverse countries with tens of thousands of animal and plant species, is beset by crimes damaging the environment, including deforestation, illegal mining, oil theft from pipelines, and trafficking of flora and fauna.

In 2020 some 171,685 hectares (424,000 acres) in Colombia were deforested, most of that in the Amazon region, up 8% from levels of destruction recorded in 2019.

The main drivers of deforestation are extensive cattle ranching, crops of coca, the main ingredient in cocaine, and illegal mining, the government said.

Wildlife trafficking is also a major issue. Last week two German citizens were caught trying to carry hundreds of arachnids out of the country.

So far in 2021 authorities have seized 5,801 birds, 2,472 mammals, 11,290 reptiles and 285,237 plant specimens, according to police statistics.

Colombia’s environment ministry will launch a new page on its website to maintain contact with environmental defenders whose work puts them at risk of being killed, Environment Minister Carlos Correa added.

The government recognizes the killings of eight environmentalists between 2018 and 2020, based on U.N. figures. But advocacy group Global Witness recorded 65 such homicides last year alone, making it the second year in a row that Colombia was the most dangerous country in the world for environmental defenders.

The government accuses illegal armed groups of committing environmental crimes and killing environmental leaders.

Source: reuters

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