Colombia devastated by heavy rain worsened by indiscriminate deforestation
“The problem is not nature; nature is not deliberately out to get anyone” —Meteorologist
Colombia’s rainy season has already seen 600 disasters caused by gale-force winds and heavy rainfall. Rivers have burst their banks, and landslides and avalanches of all kinds have occurred, said meteorologist Max Henríquez.
The rainy season began in September and normally continues to mid-December, because of La Niña. “Throughout 2007 and for several months this year we have experienced this climate phenomenon, caused by the cooling of the surface waters in the Pacific ocean, which brings above normal rainfall,” he said.
The National Disaster Prevention and Response System (SNPAD) reported 50 people killed, 85 injured, nine missing and 735,000 left homeless as a result of the flooding and landslide.
“The problem is not nature; nature is not deliberately out to get anyone, as some people think. Human beings are the problem, because we don’t do the right things,” Henríquez said.
“Cutting down trees in the river basins means that the rains are not contained, but sweep down rapidly into streams and rivers, which rise and overflow. Deforestation causes problems by accelerating the water cycle on land,” he said.
Who is responsible for Colombia’s deforestation?
It seems just about everyone! The expert believes those responsible for uncontrolled deforestation include
- Coca farmers
- Home builders (building luxury 2nd homes in the forests)
- Campesinos, or small farmers who fell trees for firewood
- Carpenters who use illegally logged trees to make furniture
- Especially, cattle ranchers extending their pasture lands
“Sixty percent of deforestation in Colombia is due to cattle ranching,” the meteorologist said. The additional demand for agricultural land has resulted in the loss of 312,000 hectares of forests since about 1990, while illegal crops like coca and opium poppies have invaded another 30,000 hectares.
“‘The relatively young geological age of the Andes mountain chain’ is also a factor in disasters, with its propensity to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, and so is poverty, as people with no other options settle in places unsuitable for habitation, and the ambition and greed of construction firms that do not carry out the necessary studies and build in an irresponsible manner.” IPS reported.
In El Poblado, Medellín’s most exclusive district, a landslide buried 10 people and six houses under 65,000 cubic meter of earth on Nov. 16, 2008.
Many of Colombia’s cities are built on unstable soil. Those include “Manizales, the capital of the central province of Caldas, Armenia, the capital of nearby Quindío province, and even Bogotá,” Henríquez said. The risks are ever-increasing, “although they would diminish if the proper controls were in place,” he said.
Botanist Jesús Orlando Rangel, of the National University of Colombia’s Institute of Science, estimates that Colombia is losing 598,000 hectares of forest every year.
putting 500 species under threat. The Alexander von Humboldt Institute, however, estimates the endangered plants at 2,500 species.
“Species unique to the high altitude grasslands are also suffering harm, such as flowering bushes and spongy mosses which grow only one centimetre a year. This vital but fragile ecosystem is being encroached on by coal mining, potato growing and cattle grazing. “
“The situation is terrible for any country, but more so for Colombia, which possibly has the richest biodiversity in the world, but the government doesn’t take proper preservation measures,” Rangel said.
“The National University’s Institute of Science has been working for over 60 years, without resources and with great difficulties, but all the Environment Ministry does is repeat our work, instead of devoting itself to compiling the information and enforcing regulations. It omits the most important thing, which is monitoring,” the expert said.
Landslide buries affluent estate north of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Landslide in an affluent hillside suburb north of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s largest city killed four people, injuring at least 15 more with one person, a Sri Lankan maid, reported missing. The land slide reportedly buried several housing states destroying dozens of homes, and forcing thousands of people to flee. Source
Soldiers help survivors of a landslide in Kuala Lumpur December 7, 2008. A landslide killed four people in a suburb of the Malaysian capital early on Saturday, tearing down houses and forcing the evacuation of thousands of people, police and local media said. REUTERS/Zainal Abd Halim (MALAYSIA). Image may be subject to copyright.
More than 15,000 people flee homes after floods in Aceh, Indonesia
More than 15,000 people have escaped their homes Thursday, as consecutive days of torrential rains caused floods in southern parts of Aceh province, according to local authorities. The rains caused the overflowing of some riverbanks, submerging 3,532 houses since Dec. 5. Xinhua reported.
Head of Indonesian Health Ministry’s crisis center said that the rain had also caused some landslides in the area, but no casualties have yet been reported. Indonesia has been frequently hit by floods and landslide due to deforestation. Illegal logging and land use change, clearing forests to plant crops, especially for biofuel, are responsible forthe deforestation.
Aceh tsunami in December 2004 claimed at least 170,000 lives. detailed map of Indonesia. PDF file
Landslide buried at least 15 people in Indonesia: Red Cross
Rescue crews have recovered five bodies, and 10 people remain missing, said Heri Hidayat, a Red Cross coordinator. The landslide happened in Cianjur, a town in the province of West Java, after days of torrential rain. Mud buried about 54 houses, and authorities have evacuated 351 people. Source
Since January 2008, floods and landslides have killed several thousand people, destroyed thousands of homes, displacing more than a million people.