Colombia’s state-run petroleum company invested $630 million across a number of environmental projects in 2013, the most it has invested in the past eight years, according to a company statement released Wednesday.
The funding went to programs that aim to reduce the pollution of water, air and soil as well as to increase biodiversity, re-forestation and improve sanitation across the country.
The central Colombian state of Meta was one of the recipients mentioned by the company, which reportedly planted some 1.7 million trees in the state and donated $175,000 to reforestation efforts.
Ecopetrol also claimed to have built over 60 water treatment plants in the state and promoted sustainability projects in the wetlands surrounding the lake of San Pablo in the Acacias municipality
Magdalena, in northern Colombia, is said to have received around $130,000 in environmental investments for reforestation and biodiversity projects to protect manatees, among many species that have come under threat from heavy contamination in the Magdalena River, one of the principle transport routes for Colombian petroleum.
In Putumayo, Huila and Tolima, states in southwest Colombia, $10,000 was donated to fund projects to improve drinking water and aid basic sewage treatment efforts. The money was also used to start environmental educational projects, with $10,000 extra being invested in environmental research.
As the largest producer of petroleum in Colombia and second-largest in Latin America, Ecopetrol itself is responsible for a significant amount of environmental damage, even ignoring the contribution of Ecopetrol petroleum to global climate change, which scientists claim will have a disproportionate effect on tropical ecologies, such as Colombia’s.
The 2011 explosions at the Caño Limon and Dosquebradas oil pipelines are high-profile example of practices the company. The former contaminated a vast stretch of waterways in eastern Colombia, shutting down water to an entire state for three days. The latter resulted in the death of 32 people, and also had severe environmental consequences. In both cases, the company was found to neglect regular safety and maintenance obligations.
A look to a more environmentally sustainable future could be key for the gasoline company, even beyond its public relations image. Given the current rate of production, Colombia’s sizable oil reserves will be exhausted in seven years, according to Ministry of Energy and Mining figures.