Getting Things Done Sustainably
Chapter 6: Financing water ecosystem services - Marta Echavarria and EcoDecisiÛn
As we arrived by plane in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, we flew over an ocean of houses covering a narrow mountain valley that stretches for more than 30 kilometres, seldom wider than 5 kilometres, and is part of the Guayllabamba River Basin. Impressive volcanic mountains, some of which are still active, flank the city. With an altitude of 2800 m above sea level, Quito is the highest capital city of the world - an altitude to which we had to adjust in the first few days. The population of Quito is growing fast with rural in-migration. From 1950 to 1990 the population grew about six-fold and the city's area about 20-fold. Owing to the expansion of the city, the agricultural frontier was pushed outward into areas of partly protected High Andes grasslands (the páramo) and native forests (Vredeveld 2008). The loss of forest cover and degradation of the páramo that is driven by agriculture and cattle grazing - and notably in some regions of Ecuador, by oil drilling and mining - are among the core reasons for the deterioration in local hydrological and other ecosystem services, as well as loss of biodiversity (ibid. UNECLAC 2010). These changes not only have an impact on local ecosystems, but also on water users downstream (for example in the case of deteriorating water quality and quantity).
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