There is a municipality in Colombia with zero poverty and illiteracy, with zero prostitution and a territory that takes care of its surroundings and the surrounding moor for more than 460 years. Despite having been run over for several decades by armed conflict and violence, today he is in constant struggle because his main subsistence activity has been limited: mining.
Unfortunately, the Santurbán Regional Park, the delimitation of moors and especially, the Constitutional Court and the Law of Páramos – in addition to many environmentalist speeches – have unknown that three of the six municipalities that make up Soto Norte are mining municipalities. For example, in the case of Vetas, 100 percent of the population, approximately 2,500 inhabitants, depends directly and indirectly on mining.
The law was raised without taking into account that the ability to use our land does not allow the development of other economic activities such as agriculture or livestock. Other options such as ecotourism or payment for environmental services are very limited and its development potential can hardly replace partially or totally mining as the main generator of employment, income and living conditions for its inhabitants.
Although it sounds paradoxical, the high environmental quality of the moorland ecosystem in the municipality of Vetas is the result of the presence and development of the mining activity, which has been concentrated in very small areas and has prevented the advance of economic activities, including agriculture and mining itself, on the moorland ecosystem located in the upper part.
Well-done mining is an ally of the conservation of high mountain ecosystems, is respectful of the National System of Protected Areas, including the demarcated ecosystems of the moor and is a fundamental economic activity to ensure their protection.
The mining system ensures the protection of the moor. The prohibition of mining as an axis of land use planning, in addition to generating unemployment, poverty and violence, would open the doors to illegal, uncontrolled, predatory and devastating mining of the environment; a bad decision of the national government eliminating legal mining in the area, would generate an environmental and social catastrophe in the region.
The next thing for us is the review of the delimitation of the moor; We believe that it should be based on correcting the cartographic errors of Resolution 2090 of 2014. Errors that were evidenced in Judgment T-361 of 2017. The Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development has the obligation to correct said errors and at the same time the responsibility of establish a páramo line based on a real, effective and participatory process of consultation with the inhabitants of Vetas.
However, it has become a space that provokes a simplistic debate, limiting it to false dilemmas such as “water or gold”, “mining or death”, distorting the reality and the perception that the inhabitants of Bucaramanga have about the socio-environmental conflict from the Santurbán region.
It is understandable that in the face of unfounded or magnified fears about the future water supply for the Bucaramanga Metropolitan Area, citizens who do not possess enough information assume in their imaginary that mining is an enemy that must be exterminated. For this reason, we call on people to inform themselves in a responsible manner, to know the reality of how about 4,000 mining inhabitants live in the region. When we do not know the subject thoroughly it is better to remain silent; let’s talk about what we know. Please visit us and they will change your opinion.
Concern for water and the moorland is not an exclusive Bucaramanga issue, we are also concerned about those of us who live in the Santurbán region. We are the first defenders of water and we exercise active citizen control. We know that mining must be developed responsibly and we demand that it be done well. We are the paramunos who take care of our wasteland, and not the environmentalists from the city and behind a microphone.
For this reason it is convenient that the delimitation process be a fast and well done process, supported by the knowledge of the territory and its social, economic and cultural realities. We have been in uncertainty for many years and we can’t stand another year.
A quick but poorly done process or a slow process will end up intensifying the socio-environmental conflict that has been caused by the same delimitation process. We demand a participatory and inclusive consultation process, which respects the right to work and our economic activities, this must be the first step to advance in the solution of the socio-environmental conflict of Santurbán. While Colombia has a 2-figure unemployment and Santander rolling 6%, Vetas being from Santander and Colombia its unemployment is above 80% due to bad decisions, lack of agreement and uncertainty coming from the State