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Drought threat to Colombia’s southern farming belt
Drought threat to Colombia’s southern farming belt

With no rain since December 2013, Colombia’s Casanare region becomes a macabre setting for a natural disaster.

World Bulletin / News Desk

With no rainfall since December 2013 the ordinarily lush savannahs of Casanare, some 300 miles northeast of Bogota, the Chilean capital, have become a parched graveyard for the region’s livestock.

Temperatures have oscillated between 100 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit on a regular basis causing the deaths of an estimated 20,000 animals, both cattle and wildlife such as capybaras and deer, destroyed plantations and exhausted what little water supplies remain.

“The impact is so severe that thousands of animals have died from water scarcity and because they have no supplies for their livelihood,” said Ricardo Combariza, wildlife expert for Corporinoquia – the Regional Autonomous Corporation for the Orinoco.

So severe is this natural disaster that Colombian Minister for the Environment Luz Helena Sarmiento on Tuesday moved her office to the city of Yopal, the capital of Casanare state. From here Sarmiento will lead up operations to confront this emergency.

The terrain of the eastern savannahs or the Llanos Orientales as they are known in Colombia is a vast region that is normally waterlogged. Today it is a desert.

As government ministries scramble to execute emergency plans to protect what wildlife, crops and livestock remain, various parties have been blamed for this environmental disaster. The farmers who have deforested lands for cattle grazing, the oil companies extracting petroleum and the companies with massive plantations of African Palm have all come under close scrutiny.

“The strong summer that Casanare is experiencing is nothing out of the ordinary,” said Omar Franco, director of the Colombian Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (Ideam). But he added a lack of appropriate planning undoubtedly aggravated the situation.

Casanare’s governor Marco Tulio Ruiz is trying to ensure that heavy machinery is made available to excavate and deepen water reservoirs, lagoons and wetlands in an attempt to quell the continuing deaths of wildlife from dehydration. Governor Ruiz has asked the oil companies with regional influence to provide resources, equipment and logistics to facilitate the necessary aid to villages and farms stricken by the drought.

Alejandro Martinez, President of the Colombian Association of Petroleum, pushed member companies to contribute US$270,000 (530 million Colombian pesos) to solve the crisis. Additionally, an emergency fund has been created to transport food and medicines for suffering animals, 100 water tankers are moving 320,000 gallons of water a day to affected areas and two teams expert in deep water drilling are on hand.  



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