Lonely Planet Writer

Colombia's Rio Bita river basin will now be protected and preserved

The government of Colombia, in association with WWF and the Alliance of the Bita organization, has just declared the basin of the Río Bita a protected area.

The Bita river is one of the tributaries of the Orinoco. Photo by Norbert Achtelik/Getty Images

The country’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, has recently announced that the river has been declared a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention, an intergovernmental treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of waters. It’s the second major ecological move made by Colombia this year, after the expansion of the boundaries of the Serranía de Chiribiquete, which is now the world’s largest rainforest national park.

Rock art is one of the main archaeological attractions that places like the Serrania of Chiribiquete and La Lindosa offer. Photo by Guillermo Legaria/AFP/Getty Images

The Bita River runs for almost 600 kilometers before flowing into the Orinoco River, the fourth-longest in the world which waters both Colombia and Venezuela. The basin of the Río Bita is a true treasure of biodiversity, containing more than a thousand different species of plants, almost three hundred species of fish and two hundred of birds, and around 60 species of mammals, from tapirs to jaguars. It is also the main support for all the local communities that live on its banks.

The inclusion of the river in the Ramsar Convention will mean a more sustainable use of its waters, which in turn will ensure that the river’s biodiversity will be preserved and safeguarded. Tourism will also become more sustainable and its impact on the river’s ecosystem will hopefully be reduced.

The basin of the Orinoco is one of the largest in the world. Photo by apomares/Getty Images

The decree for the protection of the river also includes the land around it, making it a territory that spans over 824,000 hectares and also the largest of the country’s eleven Ramsar sites. It’s also one of the few Ramsar sites in the world to include an entire free-flowing river, meaning a river that is largely unaffected by human-made changes (like dams, for example).