The Chicamocha Canyon has an outstanding natural and cultural heritage, which has made it the most valuable tourist attraction in Santander. This is the main reason to preserve it and seek its sustainable development.
In accordance with the above, the Universidad Industrial de Santander will be linked, with economic contributions, to this initiative of the Chicamocha Canyon Geopark, through a research and extension project in the areas of geology, biology and human sciences for its execution. The initiative, which was led by the Colombian Geological Survey, is also supported by the Government of Santander and the Ministry of Culture.
The project will have a total cost of $694 million, of which the UIS will contribute resources of $355 million this year and other resources will be appropriated by 2023, as announced by Rector Hernán Porras Díaz.
The rector explained that the proposal “must be configured and registered as a project in the Vice Rector’s Office for Research and Extension in the University’s project bank, with the scope expected to be achieved in these 18 months; a product that finally ends up being a research or a proposal, in this case I imagine it as a Master Plan, and that would be the end of our contribution. We will take this proposal to the Superior Council, chaired by the Governor, to secure his commitment to this proposal, and I am sure he will be delighted to lead the project,” said Porras Díaz.
He pointed out that once the project is registered and the costs are set, those are the resources that are the responsibility of the University; then we would have to sign this project, which would end up being co-financed by several institutions: the Colombian Geological Service, the Government of Santander, the Ministry of Culture, and us, the Universidad Industrial de Santander”, said Rector Porras Díaz.
And he added: “You can count on the fact that, once we get started, doing the calculations, the 694 million pesos, divided by 18 months, are approximately 35 million pesos per month. So this year we could put about 300 million pesos in cash, which could be disbursed from the Vice Rector’s Office for Research and Extension against commitments such as travel expenses, transportation, resumes that the Committee endorses and that we could charge to the project for this year. Next year we would look at what resources we could think of for the months that are needed and if we require it, we can place other resources to obtain in a year and a half; then let’s try to aim at this ‘Master Plan’ that you propose”.
In short, “the project must be endorsed academically by the schools, following the normal process of a serious proposal, and the professionals would be selected by public call, since we are looking for a seal to leverage regional development and protection”, concluded Rector Porras.
The Deputy Minister of Regional Development and Heritage of the Ministry of Culture, José Ignacio Argote López, said that he will immediately inform the Secretary of Culture and Tourism of the department and said that “all together we will surely have greater reach, that is the goal, count on the Ministry of Culture as we have always done, welcome the University with this important linkage”.
For his part, Carlos Alberto Ríos, director of the School of Geology of the UIS, stressed that “I think it is very important the bet that is being given to this initiative because it is a comprehensive proposal, which is what Unesco expects and not focused on a particular heritage but on something that integrates the natural and cultural, which is what we hope to highlight within this territory so important for us and our country”.
The director of the Colombian Geological Survey, Oscar Paredes Zapata, informed that “Marcela Gómez is a fundamental part of the construction of the Geopark project and is a contribution of the Institute. We also have the office of the Lithotheque, which is located at the UIS Guatiguará headquarters, with doctors Diego Ibáñez and Ana María Cardozo, people who are dedicating their time to this initiative”. Finally, he thanked the engineer Luis Eugenio Prada for his work as a communicating vessel with the rector of the UIS.
At the meeting, the name of José Raúl Moreno Cárdenas, Master in Fine Arts and who has been a Heritage watcher, was initially proposed as an initial candidate to be the manager of the Geopark, a proposal that was well received by the Secretary of Culture and Tourism of the Department, Mariluz Hernández, and other regional authorities, said the director of the Colombian Geological Survey.
This meeting in which these initial agreements on the Chicamocha Canyon Geopark project were reached, was attended by delegates from the Vice Minister of Regional Development and Heritage of the Ministry of Culture, the Colombian Geological Survey, the UIS, the National Geological Museum José Arroyo y Gómez, the UIS Vice-Rectory of Research and Extension, the schools of Geology, Biology, Social Work and Industrial Design, UIS Foreign Relations, UIS Rector’s Office advisors, among others.
Although initiatives around the Chicamocha Canyon have been known for some time, this is the first time it has been done as a Geopark project, which is a relatively new figure created by Unesco. UNESCO Global Geoparks are territories with clearly defined boundaries, which include a remarkable cultural and natural heritage associated with a sustainable development strategy (UNESCO, 2016). Therefore, the aspiration of the Chicamocha National Geopark should follow the guidelines required by the Global Geoparks Network which are based on three pillars: geoeducation, geotourism and geoconservation.