Protecting Bogota's Water - The Eastern Hills

Through Bogotá's Eastern Hills flow the streams that supply water to the city and its 6.7 million residents.  It's no wonder the authorities of Colombia's capitol are serious about protecting this vital ecosystem.  The water's source in the Andes has been reserved as Chingaza National Park since 1977.  Its route through the hills, while degraded from past mining and logging, is increasingly being conserved.  A first step is preventing further degradation.

Nearby La Vieja Creek, a beautiful trail for walking on the weekends accompanied by national police.  - trail sign, Amigos de la Montaña
Police in hills above Rio San Francisco.

At La Vieja authorities recently extended weekend hiking hours, upsetting conservationists and igniting a local controversy, according to El Tiempo.  But it's a trade off.  While foot traffic causes erosion, allowing visitors raises awareness.  "It educates us and makes us feel better, and when things make us feel good, we take care of them," said Andre Plazas, president of Amigos de la Montaña.

The solution then is not to ban access, but to control it.
National police stations officers every few hundred meters plus patrols on horseback.  They enforce closing hours (5am-9am weekdays), turning climbers back with enough time to descend.  They also restrict pets and bathing, as well as access to side trails which can severely impact flora. [3] 

Restricted trails along quebrada Las Delicias.
Police at peak above Quebrada La Vieja.
Exposed bedrock likely from mining.
History of the Hills 
  • Prior to Spanish conquest, indigenous groups occupied the hills and their 'sacred' waterfalls.
  • Since 1520, logging and mining of clay, stone and gravel have led to ecological fragmentation and destruction.
  • In the early 1900s, the Aquaduct and Sewer Company of Bogota began acquiring 7,000 fanegadas (11,100 acres) to protect three rivers (San Francisco, San Augustin and San Cristobal) and two ravines (La Vieja, Las Delicias)
  • In 1944, the hills became a reserve, effectively ending mining.  They became nationally protected in 1976. [1]
In years past ravines were heavily polluted with debris and chemicals, according to Wiki.[2]

Reforested banks of Las Delicias stream.
Pine plantation above quebrada la Vieja.
Non-native pine and eucalyptus replace cover parts of the Cerros, like much of the country.  While such timber plantations can be sustainable, like Nick of Kasaguadua Reserve says, they still displace native ecosystems.   See Trees of the Andes

Eucalyptus plantation above Rio San Francisco.
Police on horseback above Monserrate.

[1] Cerros Orientales, Wikipedia [link]
[2] Quebrada Las Delicias, Wikipedia [link]
[3] Amplicacion de horario en la quebrada La Vieja, El Tiempo, July 21 2016 [link]

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