Ramsar Secretariat advises Colombia to add Ciénaga Grande to list of world’s most threatened wetlands

The Ciénaga Grande in Colombia

The Ciénaga Grande in Colombia. | Credit: Mitchell Gilbert / AIDA.

June 5, 2017

Experts at the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty for the protection of wetlands, identified “significant changes” due to human interference in the ecological characteristics of the area. They recommended, among other things, that Colombia enroll the wetlands in the Montreux Record, a register of seriously threatened wetlands requiring immediate attention.

Bogotá, Colombia—Following a visit to the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta wetlands in August of last year, a mission of international experts from the Ramsar Convention, an inter-governmental treaty for wetland protection, released a report recommending that the Colombian government include the area in the Montreux Record—a register of gravely threatened wetlands requiring immediate attention.

“Given the significant changes in the ecological characteristics of the Ciénaga Grande wetlands, we recommend including it in the Montreux Record,” said the report issued last week. These changes “require urgent action by the government of Colombia to maintain and restore the area’s ecological character, and to protect it in accordance with the objectives of the Convention,” the report said.

Among changes mentioned in the report are overexploitation and contamination of the wetlands’ waters, diminished fresh water due to increased sedimentation and obstruction of waterways, “huge loss” of mangrove forests caused by road and infrastructure projects that block water flow, and declining fish populations.

“Including Ciénaga Grande in the Montreux Record would allow the Ramsar Wetland Conservation Fund to provide economic assistance through grants. It would also allow Ramsar scientists to provide expert advice and recommendations on best practices for the recovery and conservation of the ecosystem,” explained Juan Pablo Sarmiento Erazo, a researcher from the Universidad del Norte.

In addition, the Ramsar report recommends two other solutions to the wetlands’ rapidly degrading condition: performing effective dredging based on new plans for water management and strengthening coordination among institutions that manage the site.

“The key is that the Colombian government should follow the Ramsar recommendations to the letter, implement improvements as soon as possible, and make necessary changes in the site’s management,” said Gladys Martínez, an attorney with AIDA. “The Montreux Record is far from being a blacklist. It’s an opportunity for governments to demonstrate responsible management of natural resources that demand urgent attention.”

Ramsar experts visited the site from Aug. 22–26, 2016, following a 2014 petition filed with the Ramsar Secretariat by AIDA, el Universidad del Norte, and the University of Florida. Scientist Sandra Vilardy at Universidad del Magdalena also contributed.

“We hope the government will make the report official,” Vilardy said. “The document mentions that it is imperative to re-establish aquatic balance in the wetlands, emphasizing the role that rivers play in feeding Ciénaga Grande.”

More information on Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta is available here.


Press contacts:

Gladys Martínez, AIDA Attorney, +506 8321 4263, gmartinez@aida-americas.org

Carlos Lozano Acosta, AIDA Attorney, +57 300 5640282, clozano@aida-americas.org 

Juan Pablo Sarmiento, Universidad del Norte, +57 300 5514583, jpsarmiento@uninorte.edu.co