New Water Protection Area safeguards water for Indigenous Guarancas Kichwa
Newly declared Quinllunga de San Simón-Guaranda Water Protection Area secures clean and abundant water supplies for 683 people.
Nature and Culture International has supported the creation of the first Water Protection Area in Bolivar Province, Ecuador. The newly declared Quinllunga de San Simón-Guaranda Water Protection Area protects a total of 1,375 acres and secures clean and abundant water supplies for indigenous Guaranca Kichwa people.
“Water Protection Areas” (WPAs) are a new national-level conservation model in Ecuador. These areas are defined by their importance to guarantee water sources for human consumption.
“The process of Quinllunga de San Simón- Guaranda WPA began at the request of the local communities in their desire to safeguard their water resources for the future. They are aware that water is in danger, so it has been a local decision”, explains José Romero, Nature and Culture’s Coordinator of WPAs.
Concerned about water scarcity and climate change effects, around 10 years ago, 19 indigenous communities of Quinllunga, and the Municipality of San Simón, decided to protect 1,375 acres of páramo, grasslands and montane forest to secure their water supply. Nativa Amangandi, former owner of the páramo of Quinllunga remembers that her father bought this land 46 years ago. After he died, she and her brothers decided to sell the land to the community. Every member contributed to the purchase of páramo of Quinllunga with the help of the municipality of San Simón, to protect their main water source. “We can see the effects of climate change and of an increase water demand. Before we had big rivers and lakes. Now they are almost dry”, says Rumiñahui Chela, president of the water board of Gradas community. Although the páramo of Quinllunga was owned by the communities, this land was under the threat of mining concessions since it didn’t have any legal protection.
The newly declared WPA protects almost intact biodiverse ecosystems in northern Andean Ecuador. Páramo ecosystems make up at least 91% of the protected area. Páramos have the ability to capture, retain and store water from mist and rain, ensuring the provision of water resources to the lower parts of the basin. In addition, this ecosystem mitigates the effects of climate change, it can store up to 183 tons of carbon per hectare.
To delineate the Quinllunga de San Simón- Guaranda WPA, Nature and Culture International conducted a technical study of the water quality in different sites, the existing water demand and the conservation status of the area. With the support of the Tinker Foundation, and in coordination with the Water Authority of the Ministry of Environment, Nature and Culture was able to determine the areas of water importance that led to the establishment of the WPA. The Minister of Environment, Water and Ecological Transition of Ecuador, Gustavo Manrrique, mentioned that the joint work with Nature and Culture has been fundamental to move forward on the establishment of the WPA. “It’s an extraordinary partner for the Minister of Environment”, he added.
Nature and Culture supported the creation of eight WPAs lasts year which add up to 270,333 acres, with two more due to be protected in the upcoming months. These areas are of ecological and hydrological importance for the country, and the world.