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The Panama Canal’s Creative Conservation Tools, by the Numbers

Thursday, 05 March 2020 | 12:00

The industry is facing a new reality today as unpredictable weather patterns impact supply chains across the world. In recent years, places like the Port of Montreal in Canada and the Rhine River in Europe have already experienced historically low precipitation rates, forcing each to undertake immediate actions to ensure operational water levels. Now facing a similar challenge, the Panama Canal is also moving forward the only way it knows how—by building resourceful, innovative solutions that keep global maritime trade running smoothly.

In addition to accelerating its search for long-term remedies, the waterway has invested in a series of tools and community programs to strengthen the sustainability of its watershed. Together, they embody the Canal’s creative, community-oriented approach to conservation, and have already made a clear impact, as made clear by the numbers below:

8 Drone Surveillance Flights

The Panama Canal works with Panama’s Ministry of Environment to combat illegal logging and deforestation. The Canal team does so, in part, by using technology, including drones, to monitor forest coverage in the Chagres National Park, which is the source of 44 percent of water in the watershed. In the Fiscal Year 2019, the Canal team completed eight surveillance flights, as well as nine land tours, to monitor the forest coverage and hear updates from individuals across the watershed.

8,167 Land Property Titles

The Panama Canal distributes land titles to families living along the shore of Gatun Lake as part of an effort to ensure legal security for inhabitants of the watershed. By doing so, it also aims to encourage inhabitants to invest in the long-term sustainability of their property and the surrounding environment, in line with a 2016 study by the World Resources Institute (WRI), which found that securing land rights for indigenous and local communities can lead to significant environmental, economic and social benefits. Just last month, the Panama Canal surpassed 8,000 property titles awarded to over 14,000 beneficiaries, some of whom waited decades for land titles, and now have access to bank loans, educational programs, and other formal benefits.

1,000,000 Coffee Plants

The efficient maintenance of the local water supply is crucial for not only the communities living in the watershed, but also the operation of the Canal. As such, the waterway has partnered with local farmers through its Economic Environmental Incentives Program (PIEA), equipping them with the resources, education programs and other incentives needed to ensure sustainable development in the region. This includes educating participants on sustainable farming practices, such as planting trees to provide shade for their coffee plants and prevent erosion rather than clearing land through less environmentally conscious methods like slash-and-burn. The program has so far led to over a million coffee seedlings planted, among countless other crops, reflecting an unprecedented model of a green economy that serves to benefit the Canal, its neighbors and their shared, productive future.

22,239 Acres Restored

The Canal team is also making strides to reforest broad swaths on land in the watershed as part of PIEA in an effort to promote biodiversity, carbon sequestration and environmental stewardship. The Canal has so far reforested over 22,000 acres of land, with over five million seeds planted and 3.5 million tons of C02 captured. Within the next five years, the waterway aims to reforest at least an additional 10,000 acres.

550 Students, 60 Teachers and 100 Parents

To ensure this spirit of conservation continues in the decades to come, the Panama launched the Watershed Guardians Program last year, educating 550 students, 60 teachers and 100 parents on the value of protecting the watershed. The waterway also hosted over a thousand students for an Environmental Awareness Festival and similar events to further encourage the next generation to explore green commerce and ensure a more sustainable future across Panama and the world.
Source: Panama Canal Authority

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