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Colombia - An overview of the challenges faced

Our Early Career Network team in Colombia explain the challenges faced in the Upper Cauca River Basin (UCRB)

03 February 2021

An overview of the Upper Cauca River Basin

The Cauca river is a tributary of the Magdalena (Colombia’s largest river), and the Upper Cauca River Basin (UCRB) has an estimated length of 520km, distributed across five of Colombia’s 32 departments.

The main drivers of environmental change identified in the basin by the Colombia collaboratory team are economic growth, consumption growth, and population growth.

With the current population already at around 6 million inhabitants, including seven indigenous populations distributed across the basin, the population in the UCRB continues to grow. There are many economic activities taking place in the basin, linked to industry, commerce, livestock, and agriculture, amongst others.

The targeted results of the Colombia team are focussed around improving the governance of the basin, by aiding with the design of realistic policies to facilitate water security and environmental sustainability.

Monitoring land change

To truly evaluate all aspects of water security and sustainability in the Upper Cauca River Basin, the Colombia Collaboratory team have been using a variety of research techniques and methods.

Analysis of any element of the natural resources and different living systems in the UCRB must consider the various existing relationships between humans and systems.

The evolution of land covers and how they have been modified by either human interventions or climate change is crucial to this. Land covers are of great relevance, for example, in storing water on land and protecting against natural and unexpected disasters.

Investigation of the development of land covers is being carried out by a variety of means, including using multi-temporal sentinel 2 imaging, remote sensing, and climate models. Find out more in this video.

Sociological dynamics of the Las Piedras River Basin

The Las Piedras River Basin is a sub-basin located within the UCRB, between the city of Popayán and township of Totoró. Las Piedras River is a strategic river, as it is Popayán’s main water supply, feeding over 70% of the city’s aqueduct users. Within the river territory there are campesino and indigenous communities, and nine villages and two townships.

The water quality of some areas has been affected by various factors, with changes in riverbeds and extraction of construction materials also having an impact. The  climatic variability of the area also enhances this situation, with intense and irregular precipitation changes generating socio-ecological conflicts.

The Peaceful Coexistence Pact signed in 2002 recognised the search for a harmonious coexistence between environmental conservation and social development, prioritising management and adaptation actions.

Watch this video to find out more about the sociological dynamics and environmental improvement of the Las Piedras River Basin, Cauca.

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