Watersheds in the Colombian mountains provide important ecosystem services that are vital to the economy. They are the basis for crops, livestock, wood fuel, and fish production. They also prevent erosion, regulate flooding and are the source of water for downstream urban areas. The Colombian Capital, Bogotá, is surrounded by reserves and national parks that are vital to maintain the city’s water supply, while also being important reservoirs of biodiversity. Healthy watersheds rely on the conservation of the mountain forests and other ecosystems that guarantee water availability.

Despite Colombia's forest wealth, the country has not avoided intense deforestation due to the expansion of agriculture and raising livestock. It is estimated that environmental degradation in Colombia represents a loss of 3.7 percent of GDP.

The Government’s conservation strategies are aimed at protecting biological diversity and provision of ecosystem services that sustain and contribute to human well-being and therefore to development and economic growth.

Colombia has a long history with environmental accounts and has already introduced stock accounts for energy and mineral resources as well as expenditure accounts for environmental protection. Progress has also been made undertaking renewable resource accounting (water, forest, and liquid, gas, and solid waste) and in the construction of an environmental quality index for air and water resources.

The WAVES program in Colombia will build on existing work, bring together all stakeholders, and work toward ecosystem accounting at the watershed level contributing to public policy.

Making WAVES in Colombia

WAVES in Colombia aims to build on existing work on environmental accounting in order to inform policy making in critical policy areas identified by the WAVES Technical Committee. Priority accounts, as determined by the committee, are on forestry and water, focusing in particular on three selected pilot watersheds: Tota Lake—the largest lake in Colombia, the Suarez River and Chinchina—in the coffee zone of Colombia, and is considering broadening the scope to strategic river basins. They all represent different ecosystems and serve as pilot projects in the country. 

The WAVES work plan in Colombia is based on three milestones:

  • Accounts prepared and accessible to public decision makers
  • Public policy decisions take into account environmental and macroeconomic indicators that have been tracked
  • Tracking of the project has been guaranteed and the expected results obtained

The Story So Far

The work in Colombia started in 2011 with initial consultations with key institutions and a major stakeholders’ workshop hosted by the National Planning Department (DNP), (workshop presentations can be found on the DNP website in Spanish). A draft assessment report, funded by the WAVES Partnership, was presented at the workshop and included a discussion of institutional issues, the state of knowledge in Colombia, data gaps and data availability, and a draft work plan.

The parties agreed on the institutional design as well as on next steps, including priorities for valuation and a road map for the WAVES Colombia program implementation phase.

In June 2012, the government of Colombia joined the World Bank’s 50:50 Call to Action for the implementation of natural capital accounting and endorsed the Communiqué on Natural Capital Accounting at Rio+20.

In November 2012, the National Statistics Department (DANE) organized a workshop on national accounts and environmental satellite accounts in Colombia. The WAVES Technical Committee participated in the workshop, which provided critical information on the background, methodologies, status, and available information on these accounts in Colombia.

Following the workshop, the WAVES Technical Committee was convened in January 2013 to review the WAVES Policy Document and final draft of the Work Plan and Budget. The Committee made significant progress on the technical, policy, and institutional aspects of the WAVES Policy Document and the Work Plan and Budget and agreed on priority accounts for the work plan (water and forestry, focusing in particular on three selected pilot watersheds.)

The WAVES work plan and budget were approved by the steering committee in April 2013. The Department of National Planning (DNP) is leading the implementation process, and promoting the active participation of all key Stakeholders in the implementation of the water accounts.

WAVES Colombia collaborates with other development partners, including NGOs, universities and local experts. For example, the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) and representatives from Columbia’s academic sector participated in the WAVES stakeholder workshop organized by the DNP and the World Bank in Bogotá in April 2013.

The WAVES Technical Committee is in the process of drafting the terms of reference needed for starting the implementation phase of the project (January-June 2014). A policy consultant has been hired and a technical consultant will be hired in the coming months.

The steering committee last met in October 2013.