Legal Instruments for the Protection of the Paramos

Regulations and production of knowledge

Carlos Enrique SarmientoInstituto Alexander von Humboldt Jessica ZapataInstituto Alexander von Humboldt

The temporal sequence of regulations related to paramo ecosystems may be divided into five phases. These phases have significant differences between the objectives and legal and technical instruments proposed for the implementation of territorial policies and its relationship to the academic sector, in addition to scientific production.

Due to the recognition of the value of paramo biodiversity and the importance of related

ecosystem services, these ecosystems have been privileged by the issuance of national and regional regulations directed towards their conservation, resulting in paramos being considered as strategic ecosystems. The revision of the regulations of the last 50 years, along with the production of scientific knowledge, suggests a strong influence of academia on the evolution of the legal framework that is applicable to these ecosystems, especially since Act 99 of 1993 and the inclusion of paramos in the two latest development plans, among other norms of territorial land-planning. An aspect not fully addressed in these regulations is the participation of society, which is an essential factor for the design, execution, and assessment of the public policies of the central government and regional environmental authorities.

The delimitation of paramos, an initiative originally established in the reformation of the Mining Code (Act 1382 of 2010), is a territorial land-planning tool that initially intended to forbid the development of new mining projects and progressively decrease existing mining activities. A particular characteristic of this regulatory framework was the indication that the cartographic reference for its application would be the "Atlas de Páramos" (Paramo Atlas), a publication of the Humboldt Institute. This characteristic marked a new phase of interactions between science and politics for the conservation of ecosystems.

Although this reform was declared to be unconstitutional, national development plans (2010-2014 and 2014-2018) have maintained special protection policies for these ecosystems, with some modifications related to forbidden or regulated activities and cartographic definitions. This has created a new challenge for scientific production about paramos, especially since 2013, because research ordered by law for their delimitation must include economic, social, and environmental aspects.

These last modifications signify the recognition of the social and ecological complexity of paramos within their regulatory framework, and, in this sense, a feat for public opinion and the management of knowledge. However, it could also be considered that recent changes in norms and instruments respond to specific interests, making the cartographic definition and representation more complex. The sentence number 035 of 2016 of the Constitutional Court marks a new milestone in terms of taking into consideration the knowledge about paramo ecosystems and its interactions with territorial land-planning instruments.