Bogotá Colombia according to the StampCollector

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Authors

Adam Blenford

Adam Blenford, the StampCollector, saw Bogotá and he wrote about it in his blog. He is a British journalist and photographer, based in London.

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Bogota is a surprising choice for an enlightened eco-city.

Sprawling between ranges of Colombia’s Andean heights, the city is the eighth-biggest in South America, as any reputable guidebook will tell you. With its size comes air pollution; Colombian diesel is one of the poorest grades in common usage, and much of the city is semi-permanently shrouded in a hazy smog.

But this could be about to change. For ten years now, residents of Bogota have been banned for one day each year from driving their cars or vans within the city limits. The latest no-car day, held last week, was widely obeyed and made the streets a pleasant and quiet place to move around.

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Now, according to a report in the country’s main newspaper, El Tiempo, one fuel company, Ecopetrol, will improve the quality of diesel in the city in an effort to reduce the pollution.

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By July 2008 Bogota’s diesel will contain 500 polluting particles per million, down from current levels of 1,200ppm. Elsewhere in Colombia fuel currently contains 4,000ppm, to be cut to 3,000 by July, and 2,500 by the end of 2009. By that time Bogota’s cars will be fuelled by 50ppm diesel, bringing it to the same levels as cities such as Buenos Aires and Mexico City, El Tiempo reports.

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The changes will no doubt be welcomed in the city as it tries harder to shake off its image as the capital of one of the world’s most troubled states.

As we arrived in town Bogota was recovering from the spectacle of a huge march against the Farc, Colombia’ left-wing guerrilla force, which made worldwide headlines a week or so ago.

In the vibrant streets of La Candelaria, the student district, historical centre and tourist favourite, there was cautious hope that the march would lead to changes and the possible release of more Farc hostages.

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But away from Bogota life in Colombia still has its problems. While tourists are largely untroubled by the still-murmuring armed conflict, the people in villages and towns close to some of the country’s favourite tourist destinations are still fearful of the Farc or, more likely, of Colombia’s paramilitary forces, supposedly disarming but still a force to be reckoned with.

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The country boasts astonishing scenery, diverse flora and fauna and happy, cheerful people. Tourist numbers are on the rise each and every year.

But things are still in flux in Colombia. Hostel and hotel owners are routinely searched by suspicious immigration police. As more foreigners come to the country there is a need for a united stand against bureaucracy and intimidation, they say.

The country is probably still searching for the right path through the jungle.

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