The Magdalena River is the largest river in the country and in its upper parts it has a flow of between 300 and 500 cubic meters per second, especially in the part where the El Quimbo hydroelectric plant is in operation. The construction of this hydroelectric plant made the river become a reservoir and consequently, its ecosystem was transformed, and today it is, in effect, a simple lake in which there is no life or a sustainable ecosystem, Xiomara Taborda explains in the Biodiversity in Latin America and the Caribbean portal.
The river being an ecosystem, its diversion and the construction of the hydroelectric plant caused the extinction of several species, in the same way it generated changes in the climate of the southwestern region of Huila, which affected the lives of the populations and communities that lived close to it.
The most recent case, which shows the serious environmental impacts, is what happened with the disappearance of the Sambingo River in the department of Cauca, which was reported with images, by army troops, who raised the alerts regarding the extreme situation of the water sources of the Colombian Massif.
Since the effects of the El Niño phenomenon were felt strongly, the media and the community in general focused their eyes on the levels of the two most important rivers in the country: the Magdalena and the Cauca and, while the reflectors pointed to show the low flows from those tributaries, in a remote region, a whole river disappeared.
The discovery was made by the authorities, who on January 22 carried out an operation against illegal mining in the department of Cauca. Military members of the Army's Third Division, supported by the Air Force and the Prosecutor's Office, reached remote areas of the municipalities of Mercaderes, Bolívar and Almaguer. All of them located in the southwestern area of that department reports the portal Asociación de Cabildos Indígenas north of Cauca.
But the real surprise of the authorities was not to find heavy machinery and hundreds of men and women digging the earth in search of bright sparks, but to observe the gruesome images of desolation and drought. “We couldn't believe it. Seeing that panorama caused us a lot of sadness, anger and pain, ”said a noncommissioned officer who was in the operation.
The description made by the uniformed man was no wonder. What he and his companions saw from the air was the dry bed of one of the largest and most important rivers in the region: the Sambingo River.
This tributary, which is part of the most important hydrological basin in the Pacific region of Cauca, is a tributary of the Patía, another mythical river in the region. Before emptying into the ocean, both traverse almost 150 kilometers of mountains, canyons and tropical forest.
In the images of drought of the tributary it is clearly observed that not only the El Niño phenomenon is responsible. Throughout its arid riverbed, huge volcano cracks are observed that are nothing other than the ditches product of illegal mining.
Through a statement, the Army confirmed that five backhoe machines, a sorter and other extraction elements estimated at 400 million pesos were found at the site, a derisory figure compared to the approximate three billion that criminals earned from the mine. monthly, local media highlighted.
“For the recovery of the area, about 100 billion would be required, which is equivalent to the construction of about three thousand low-income houses and almost 100 years of environmental work, to achieve reforestation and recovery of the basic levels of habitability ", reads the statement.
“We couldn't believe it. Seeing that panorama caused us a lot of sadness, anger and pain, ”said a noncommissioned officer who was in the operation.
“With the landing of the troops on land and after a meticulous analysis and an expert opinion of the surroundings, the disappearance of several species that became extinct due to this predatory activity around the mining establishment was observed. Likewise, from the air you can see the damage caused to 360 hectares of native forest ”.
The question now asked by those mourning the disappearance of the first river in Colombia is whether the Sambingo will once again be the mighty tributary when the rains return.
In Colombia ecosystems are being damaged, natural resources are being mismanaged and in the end those who pay the consequences are the living beings that inhabit the regions of the country, which today are debated between environmental sovereignty and the State's forgetfulness about the sources of the most precious resource for humanity: water.
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