Colombia’s national director of risk management announced on Tuesday the country’s plans to combat the adverse effects of El Niño, a weather phenomenon that raises temperatures, increasing the likelihood of droughts and forest fires.
Speaking with reporters Carlos Ivan Marquez said the national strategy relies heavily on water conservation, including monitoring Colombia’s dams, to aid in the prevention of forest fires that come as a consequence of El Niño. Marquez also identified cooperation between the emergency services as an important component of the strategy, yet failed to confirm the specific amount of funding and resources that the state would be able to provide.
The regions most at risk are the northern provinces, such as Magdalena, Guajira and Cesar. Other areas that are also potentially in danger include parts of the Huila and Tolima departments in central Colombia.
At this stage the possibility of El Niño occurring in the coming months is not clear. The Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies claims that Colombia only has a 50% chance of encountering the phenomenon.
The World Meteorological Organization recently predicted that an El Niño episode was likely to occur in July and continue through to the end of the year, however they did not specify the likelihood. The organization added that “…scientific understanding of the phenomena of El Niño and La Niña have become an important tool for policy makers and planners in the areas of reducing disaster risk management water or agriculture and health. “
The El Niño phenomenon refers to a climate pattern that typically affects the central and eastern Pacific region every five years. Changes to the atmosphere near Colombia include unusually high sea temperatures, increased cloudiness and weaker than normal easterly trade winds.
Several of Colombia’s neighbors, such as the United Sates, Ecuador and Peru are also developing contingency plans for changing weather patterns.