Forest fires in Colombia caused US$170 million in damage in 2015.
Forest fires in Colombia in 2015 were devastating to the environment and the economy.

The Director of Colombia's National Planning Department (NPD), Simón Gaviria, recently informed the country about the economic and environmental cost of the forests fires triggered by the El Niño phenomenon. He said that in 2015 the loss amounted to 476,000 million (Colombian) pesos (around US$170 million).

The document officially released by the NPD included several indicators such as the areas most affected by forest fires and the economic loss for the country. Fires ravaged 120,000 hectares in 2015, 23,000 hectares of which are forests. 

Gaviria went on to explain the environmental implications of losing the forests: “By losing the forest, the country loses ecosystem services such as hydrological regulation, erosion and sediments control, biomass use and carbon sequestration, which are key to citizens' quality of life and country’s economy.”

The information on the value of the loss of ecosystem services, highlighted by the country’s media, was based on several inputs, including the national forest account generated by the inter-institutional work led by the Wealth Accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem Services partnership (WAVES) partnership. 

DNP used forest accounts that calculated the value of timber asset, one of the environmental services highlighted by Gaviria.

"It is gratifying to provide useful information to Colombia through NCA. This information is also relevant for countries with similar situations as they can see the loss of ecosystem services in monetary terms," said Henry Alterio, the country coordinator for WAVES Colombia.