Businessmen, academia, and community sign alliance to generate solutions to water pollution in Santander.

Alianza para generar soluciones a la contaminación por mercurio del río suratá
  • The protection of water was the theme that summoned the entrepreneurs, academics, and social leaders of Santander to make decisions that help the conservation of water sources in the region.
  • ALIANZA PAS (Alliance for the Protection of the Water of Santander) has selected the the first case of intervention as the Suratá river, (with an emphasis on the micro-basins of the Vetas River and the upper Suratá), which supplies more than 2 million citizens in the metropolitan area of Bucaramanga and has been affected by mercury pollution.

    Bucaramanga, August 22, 2023. The National Association of Entrepreneurs of Colombia (ANDI, in its Spanish acronym) Santander Sectional, through the National Centre for Water and Biodiversity, the ONG The Nature Conservancy, the Soto Norte project, Universidad EAN, Universidad del Rosario and the Foundation for Peace and Reconciliation (PARES in its Spanish acronym) officially sealed an “Alliance for the Protection of Water in Santander”, that allows for the articulation of efforts and the construction of a portfolio of solutions for the protection and recovery of the water of the region.

    This is an intersectoral strategy, which arises from cooperation agreements between the private sector, academia, and civil society organizations, where it is expected to have a high level of community participation, so that through serious, interdisciplinary, and real work, solutions applicable to the conservation and recovery of water resources can be found.

    The ALIANZA PAS has selected as its first case of intervention the Río Suratá (with an emphasis on the micro-basins of the Vetas and upper Suratá rivers) and it is precisely for this tributary that the first portfolio of solutions based in nature for the conservation, and active and passive restauration will be built.

    The Suratá river was chosen due to its recognized mercury pollution situation that has been affecting it for several years, and which has been denounced by different citizen oversight bodies and has even been the subject of serious statements by control bodies such as the Attorney General’s Office.

    According to Dora Moncada, director of the National Center for Water and Biodiversity of the ANDI, “this PAS Alliance summons different actors, companies, the academia, NGOs and civil organizations, and it is the beginning of a commitment that that seeks to be participatory, purposeful, and based on scientific knowledge but accompanied by the knowledge of communities, so that the debate goes beyond discussions to solutions and positive alternatives".

    The Work Plan defined by Alianza PAS has specific goals and actions consisting of 5 phases, which will take between 18 and 24 months, some of these are: consolidate an information system on the Suratá River; together with the communities, design the most comprehensive and efficient monitoring system of the tributary; train and strengthen the capacities of the inhabitants of the Province of Soto Norte to protect the river and find solutions to its problems; develop a sub-basin analysis with mathematical and statistical models that serve as input for authorities and the general population, and develop an initial open portfolio of solutions.

    In the same sense, Leon Valencia, director of the Foundation for Peace and Reconciliation (PARES), said that "with this alliance Santander becomes an example for the country. From the PARES Foundation we join this initiative to contribute from conflict resolution and transformation through dialogue, for which we want to bring good practices from other places in the world, even with the support of the World Bank, on issues of environmental sustainability and water care. It is not a matter of inventing new things, but of building from what is in the territory and from the knowledge that the communities have, and thus make the dreams and projects of the people of Santander a reality".

    At the same time, Yaneth Mantilla Barón, Executive vice president of Strategic Affairs of the Soto Norte project stated that "water is the guiding principle of the Soto Norte Project and, for this reason, we have joined this PAS Alliance because we have the firm conviction to contribute to the collective construction of a portfolio of real solutions that will allow us to protect the water resources of our region, hand in hand with the communities that live, care for and depend on the Suratá River. It is time to bring and work for solutions, and not for divisions."

    The PAS Alliance has the participation of the Soto Norte Project, currently the company with the broadest knowledge of water in the region through a monitoring system that permanently surveys the quality of the hydric resource at more than 60 locations. Likewise, The Nature Conservancy Colombia (TNC) whose participation is of vital importance, as the work of this global environmental organization is backed by its extensive track record, thanks to more than one million members, and the efforts of diverse staff and more than 400 scientists, currently influencing water, and biodiversity conservation in 76 countries and territories.