High in the clouds of the Andean páramos

I found this post saved as a draft from 2010, not sure why I hadn’t posted it.


“Andean winds blow dense clouds of fog in waves over steep mountain crags carpeted with hundreds of species of tropical plants that trap in moisture here high above Colombia’s capital. Water is everywhere in this treasure trove, held in place by an intricate fabric woven by Mother Nature This is nature’s water factory; water springs from the rugged paramos (neo-tropical ecosystems) of Chingaza and Sumapaz national parks and travels through underground veins to the Ghuza and San Rafael reservoirs, supplying millions of people in the metropolitan area of Bogota.

As we travel deeper into the mountains, fog drapes itself over the secrets of the forest, intermittently allowing us to see an impenetrable mass of bushes mid trees, silhouettes of deer in the ravines, grassy plateaus on the riverbanks, and lagoons flanked by the perpetual green of the Chingaza National Park and Nature Reserve.

We are almost 10,000 feet above sea level. Our guide, Luis Alberto Espino, tells us that over 80 percent of the people of Bogota get their drinking water from this area. “The Chingaza paramo is like a sponge that stores rainwater and then releases it slowly over time,” he says, as we walk hunched over through low vegetation.

The magic of this hydrological system is evident all around us. Water flows permanently from moss-covered rocks, feeding wetlands and reed-filled bogs, and filtering into crystal clear streams that supply the entire watershed. The paramo ecosystem consists of wetlands and high grassland areas which, if well preserved, can create a soil structure ideal for storing water in the dry season and regulating the water cycle throughout the year by releasing it little by little to the lower areas.

Espino squeezes a handful of moss his hand and water streams out. “This, in infinite quantities, is what allows the accumulation of about 8.8 billion cubic feet of water in the Chuza Reservoir,” says the smiling ranger. From this immense artificial lake in El Chingaza, the water is taken downhill through a large underground aqueduct to the San Rafael Reservoir located in the heights of Bogota, in La Calera. The reservoir holds enough water to supply the capital city with water for three to five months in case of drought.

On the way back to Bogota, I visit the Botanic Gardens where I meet Julia Miranda, the general director of Colombian National Park Service. Under the shadow of huge palm trees, Miranda explains the value of the paramos with a certain pride. “Colombia has the advantage of having large extensions of relatively well-preserved paramo areas,” she says. “And it’s important to look at how important this is for a city like Bogota and for a region like the Savannah of Bogota. Bogota is a city with more than eight million people, and it gets its water primarily from two national parks, Chingaza National Park and Sumapaz National Park. In addition to the people in Bogota and the Savannah of Bogota, sixteen municipalities are benefitting from this water.” – Source

Colombia to eradicate deforestation


A study published October 17th revealed that Colombia lost 120.9k hectacres of natural forests in 2013, with 57% being within the Amazon region. Colombia will attempt to completely eradicate Amazonian deforestation by 2020, to promote a sustainable, low-carbon development model for the region, said the Colombian president. – Source


Consumerism and Conservation in Bogotá

News on the two items below came out at the same time, which I found interesting.

Eden Mall


“Just granted planning constent, Eden Mall will be Colombia’s largest shopping centre, covering an area of  320,000 m2 and 134,000 m2 dedicated to retail space.

It is located in the southeast intersection of Avenida Boyacá and Calle 13, in the city of Bogota – a strategic location in the capital and a place of major residential growth.  The location connects the Mall to the rest of the city, with immediate access from any of the major arterial roads.

USD$500 million is to be invested in the project and will include international and national brands and retailers in over 350 stores, a food court, restaurants, cinemas and approx 20,000 m2 for family entertainment, plus parking for 4,000 vehicles.

Construction is expected to commence in the first quarter of 2015, and open in 2017.  When open, the Mall is expected to attract circa 2 million visitors monthly. ” – Source

Ecological Park


“Bogota conservation authorities plan to create a bio-diversity corridor to preserve ground water and natural plant species in what would be the largest urban ecological park in Latin America.

An Environmental Management Plan has been created for the area located north of Bogota and covering regions Guaymaral, Corpas and Suba.

Regional Autonomous Corporation (CAR) has banned construction on roughly 1,400 acres of land situated on Thomas van der Hammen Forest reserve, and aims to build a huge ecological reserve which would be the largest in the whole of Latin America. The project is expected to cost around 73 million dollars. ” – Source

Building homes differently in Colombia


“Building homes using recycled plastic bottles – that’s the innovative idea of a design school in Colombia specialised in sustainable habitat. The inspiration came from the ancient “wattle and daub” housebuilding technique: the idea is to stack recycled bottles filled with sand and earth. The design school offers courses to teach students how to empower communities by using alternative and accessible technologies.” – Source, Source 2

La Casa Vergara


“Colombian architect Jose Andres Vallejo is the inspired genius behind La Casa Vergara, an innovative dome-shaped residence built with sustainable earthbag solutions. Constructed in Bogota in 2011, La Casa Vergara uses traditional earth (superadobe concept from Iran) to create a naturally cool residence with a gentle environmental impact. Covered with concrete finishing, building from earth is not only cost effective, but also offers seismic resistance and peace of mind.” – Source

Café Tero vs Café de Colombia


The Café de Colombia brand, a pioneer in certificates of origin, obtained its name in 2005. Due to its particular condition, it’s under protection, and that consists of stopping anyone from registering any sign that reproduces, imitates or contains a certificate of origin. Therefore, the Superintendency of Industry and Commerce decided to refuse registration of the brand Cafe Tero requested by Inox Sentry.

“I consider the decision to be a little exagerated given that the National Federation of Coffee-growers has a monopoly on the evocations, “Colombia” and “café”. Only for having the word of the product associated with the national flag, it makes reference to the certificate of origin. I believe that it’s an incorrect interpretation on behalf of SIC”, said a lawyer specialized in industrial property, Lola Kandelaft, from the Muños Abogados firm.

The lawyer Javier Delgadillo, also a specialist in the field of law, from the firm Q&D Abogados, takes an opposite view. “I share SIC’s decision because the registration of a brand should be denied if if reproduces the concept of a protected certificate of origin.”

He also adds that “the decision was successful because the protections don’t limit themselves to signs that reproduce its name, but rather it encompasses any graphic representation or any other representation that may evoke the same concept.

A certificate of origin is the name or indication of a geographic location, that may be a country or determined region, which designates a product that by being originated from said region, and by the customs of production or transformations of its inhabitants, has characteristics or a reputation that makes it different from similar products coming from other geographic regions.

On the list headed by Café de Colombia for certificates of origin, are Café de Cauca, Café de Nariño, Café de Huila, Chalupa del Huila, Queso del Caquetá, Queso Paipa, Bizcocho de Achira del Huila, Clavel de Colombia, Crisantemo de Colombia and Rosa de Colombia.

On this occasion, the lawsuit was started against Café de Colombia on October 16, 2013, when Inox Sentry requested from SIC the registration of its brand Café Tero to distinguish its grain, which is included in class 30 of the International Nice Classification.

Once the request was published, the Federation presented its opposition citing pertanent laws. First, they say that “they are registrable signs which may mislead trade circles or the public, particularly in regards to geographical origin, nature, manufacturing process, characteristics, qualities or suitability for employment of related products or services.”

Second, “one cannot register items that reproduce, imitate or contain a protected certificate of origin.”

The opposition says “in virtue of the declaration of the protection of the Café de Colombia certificate of origin, no third party can register or use a merging of these expressions.”

Facing of the decision of the Department to refuse registration of the brand, Inox Sentry appealed. However, on appeal the denial was upheld.” – Source (ES)