Colombia’s government on Wednesday introduced a ban on building hotels within the boundaries of the country’s 57 national parks.

Environment minister a decree setting out rules for ecotourism in protected areas, which include a full ban on the construction of hotels in protected areas.

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Minister Juan Gabriel Uribe does allow ecotourism in national parks as long as they are “specialized and sustainable” and promote “awareness of the value the protected areas through activities such as contemplation, sport and culture, contributing to the fulfillment of its objectives of conservation and the generation of social and economic opportunities to local and regional populations.”

The ruling was also signed by the head of National Parks and was agreed with the Trade Ministry.

The minister said on the ministry’s website that clear criteria now define which areas are suitable for the development of ecotourism activities and that sustainable hotel projects will be permitted in surrounding areas.

‘Now the country will have a sustainable ecotourism in strategic ecosystems,’ said Uribe.

The minister’s decision follows controversy over the building of a hotel in Tayrona, a national park on Colombia’s Caribbean coast.

However, the construction of the Hotel Los Ciruelos may eventually be permitted as the project was licensed before the ban was enforced.  The building is currently suspended as it is awaiting a decision from the national authority of environmental licenses as to whether the project is allowed to continue, amid concerns about the project’s environmental effects.

Source: Colombia Reports