By: Stephani Paliza, Dalia Benavente and Angie Arias.
Peru is one of the 17 so-called megadiverse countries in the world because it has more than 70% of the planet's biodiversity, mainly as a result of the Andes Mountains and the “El Niño” and “Humboldt” ocean currents, in addition to other geographical factors such as the country's location in the tropical zone, altitude variations, cloud cover and wind patterns, which together determine a multiplicity of ecosystems.
In our country there are seas, deserts, steppe mountains, moors, mountains and glaciers, jungles and forests of various types, which is why there are multiple ways to classify Peruvian ecosystems: 8 natural regions according to Pulgar Vidal, 8 types of climate according to Schoder, 16 plant formations according to Hueck, 11 zoogeographic provinces according to Brack, 8 biogeographic provinces according to “Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina” and 15 ecological regions according to Zamora.
To mention a few facts about Peru's great diversity:
It has 66 million hectares of forests, being the fourth worldwide in tropical forests and the second with the largest extension of Amazonian forests.
The Peruvian sea is one of the most important fishing basins on the planet.
The Peruvian vascular flora is composed of 7,590 endemic species.
It has 800 endemic species of orchids and 17.3% of the national territory are Natural Protected Areas.
In terms of fauna, Peru ranks first in butterfly species with 4,441 species, third in birds with 1,857 species, sixth in reptiles with 469 species, fourth in mammals with 559 species, third in amphibians with 623 species, and is among the top five countries with the greatest diversity of primates with 56 species.
This diversity makes the country highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, as it presents seven of the nine conditions established in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992) to address the needs and concerns of developing countries vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change:
1) Low-lying coastal areas.
2) Arid and semi-arid areas, forested areas and areas liable to forest decay.
3) Areas prone to natural disasters.
4) Areas liable to drought and desertification.
5) Areas of high urban atmospheric pollution.
6) Areas of fragile ecosystems, including mountain ecosystems.
7) Countries whose economies are highly dependent on income generated from the production, processing and export, and/or consumption of fossil fuels and associated energy-intensive products.
This should be taken into account by the authorities to plan climate change adaptation measures that are timely and respond to the particularities of each region and locality, in order to adequately respond to the challenges caused by global warming.
The environment is important because it provides human beings with the necessary resources to satisfy their basic requirements and guarantees the well-being of future generations. For this reason, the purpose of the State must be to promote the common good, protecting the environment and its components.
Since the Proclamation of the Independence of Peru there has been a gradual process of adequate protection of the environment that has developed mainly through the customs and environmental awareness of the citizens. According to historian Lossio (2003), during the 18th and 19th centuries, environmental awareness developed significantly and important public policies were implemented to address problems that were considered a priority.
Despite these advances, environmental protection in Peru became evident at the constitutional level only in 1979, when Article 123 was regulated for the first time; this Article grants all Peruvians the right to live in a healthy and ecologically balanced environment. Years later, in 1992, after the Earth Summit was held in Rio de Janeiro, the Peruvian Constitution of 1993 expanded this protection through the incorporation of new environmental premises; and, in Article 2, Section 22, it incorporated the right to enjoy a balanced and adequate environment for the development of the life of Peruvian citizens.
The environment provides human beings with the necessary resources to satisfy their basic needs; it also guarantees the well-being of future generations. That is why the purpose of the Peruvian State is to promote the common good and one of its main duties is to protect the environment and its components.
In Peru, the protection of the environment has been evidenced at the constitutional level since 1979 when Article 123 was regulated for the first time, which grants all Peruvians the right to live in a healthy and ecologically balanced environment. In 1992, after the Earth Summit was held in Rio de Janeiro, the 1993 Peruvian Constitution expanded this protection through the incorporation of new environmental premises, and in Article 2, Clause 22, it incorporated the right to enjoy a balanced and adequate environment for the development of the life of Peruvian citizens.
At the international level, Peru has signed treaties related to natural resources and the conservation of natural and cultural heritage. Some of these include the Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, established by UNESCO in 1972; the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat; the Convention on Biological Diversity, signed in Rio de Janeiro in 1992; the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, adopted in 989; the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, adopted in 1992, among others.
Thus, in the last 200 years, several national laws and international treaties have been a key element for the protection of the environment, since their purpose has been the search for Environmental Justice related to the political and ethical aspects. As Millner (2011) points out, Environmental Justice implies that the exploitation of resources must be carried out in a rational manner, taking into account the impact that may be caused to the environment and to individuals as a community.
In Peru's Bicentennial year, despite recognizing the existence of serious situations that threaten the environment, such as illegal mining and the lack of protection for environmental defenders, there is evidence of various initiatives to preserve the environment, marine biodiversity and endangered species.
The Ministry of Environment (MINAM) began this year the first mapping of seasonally dry forests on the northern coast of the country, specifically located in Tumbes, Piura and Lambayeque. The information that can be collected thanks to this initiative will allow the changes and losses in the coverage of these forests to be measured. It will also assist in generating deforestation alerts. All this was achieved through the National Forest Conservation Program for Climate Change Mitigation, the Regional Government of Lambayeque and the Pro Forests project of the Japanese Cooperation Agency (JICA).
Likewise, this year the initiative ''Sponsor a taricaya, conserve Pacaya'' was launched, led by the National Service of Natural Areas Protected by the State (SERNANP), which seeks to promote the conservation of the taricaya, an emblematic species of the Peruvian Amazon, through donations from Profonanpe accounts. In addition, it seeks to transfer 43,000 taricayas to their natural habitat, and thus help families that carry out conservation activities (Ministry of the Environment, 2021).
The Peruvian government is also promoting the conservation of marine biodiversity through the establishment of the Dorsal de Nazca National Reserve (RNDN), which was officially launched this year and is the first fully marine protected area in the country. This reserve seeks to conserve around 8% of the marine surface. In addition, it ensures that all fishing activities must have a specific title in order to ensure marine conservation (Ministry of Environment, 2021).
Finally, the National Forestry and Wildlife Service (SERFOR) announced the execution of the "Improvement of the recovery service for the Andean condor of Peru'', which aims to protect the presence of this endangered species and ensure its protection by strengthening the capacities of the authorities. The Andean condor, in addition to being the country's largest flying bird, plays a vital role in the ecosystem, as this species eliminates organic debris that can become infectious sources. For this reason, the project also seeks to raise awareness of the issue (AgroPerú, 2021).
As Peru celebrates 200 years of its independence, the initiatives and advances that have taken place in relation to the conservation of the environment should be highlighted; However, great challenges remain to be addressed, such as the climate crisis, environmental education, urban development, the protection of environmental defenders, environmental enforcement, and the fight against illegal logging. For this reason, in this new century of Peruvian independence, it is time to reflect and start taking new actions that respond to all these problems that affect biodiversity and the quality of life of Peruvians.
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