Gran Tierra’s Environmental Management Plan (EMP) states that GTE will minimize the footprint of project activities throughout the operations and that full remediation and reclamation will follow the cessation of operations. The plan also mandates that the company respect land use by local communities and that the company’s daily work activities shall minimize impacts on local land uses. Other land use measures required by the EMP include:
- Land disturbed during project construction will be returned to its original use as soon as possible.
- Where possible, after wells have been drilled from well pads, the size of the well pad will be reduced to that required for the workover rig. After completion and testing, the land shall be returned to prior use.
- Land clearing will be conducted in a way that limits topsoil disturbances.
- Reclaimed lands will be scarified to address compaction and reduce erosion. Fertilizer and mulch will be added if necessary and in some cases the area may be seeded.
The Costayaco Forestry Center
Colombian regulations require oil and gas companies to compensate for changes in land use attributable to their activities. According to government guidelines, this compensation can take different forms but often includes the purchase and reforestation of land that may have been deforested by cultivation of illegal crops, cattle ranching or logging.
One way Gran Tierra has complied with these regulations is by purchasing nearly 300 hectares of land in the Putumayo Department for conservation purposes. In 2010 the company completed planting its first tree plantation on part of this land. That same year, going beyond regulatory requirements, the company created the nearby Costayaco Forestry Center.
In addition to what is now over 145 hectares of forest, the Center consists of a number of buildings on the property – offices, training area and a greenhouse – all of which Gran Tierra voluntarily built in 2013 to support research and education programs. There are 75 tree species in the area around the Center, including many local endangered species. Because of its focus on research, the Center is becoming well known as a leader in Colombia on native species. Research to understand the ecological requirements of the native species is ongoing.
In 2016 and 2017 the Center emphasized environmental education. Over 1,500 people from local villages visited in 2016 to learn about the Center and see some of the 160,000 trees it has planted. There is also a study center where students can intern after they finish secondary school.
GTE runs other environmental education programs with local communities which focus on water conservation, wildlife preservation and the importance of forests. Additionally, GTE has donated trees to these communities and encouraged them to engage in voluntary tree planting.
The land around the Center now includes a wildlife corridor that connects two areas that had previously been cut off due to deforestation. This has led to the reappearance of many species of birds and the sighting of wild cats and wild pigs.
Another benefit of the Center is that the recovery of the green coverage and the fact that there is no cattle waste on its land means that local river and groundwater are cleaner.