Regions throughout Colombia are suffering extreme drought, which has resulted in a series of forest-fires with a devastating impact upon the environment.
The Director of the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (IDEAM), Omar Franco, announced last week that seven Colombian departments are on drought alert. A lack of rainfall has led to extreme droughts in southern Colombia and an abundance of forest fires in the north.
The northern departments of Atlantico, Bolivar, Cesar, Cordoba, Magadelena, La Guajira and Sucre are the areas most heavily affected by the lack of rainfall. The IDEAM Head of Forecasting Christian Euscategui explained that “There is build up in the Caribbean high pressure system which has left us with dry weather across much of the north and high levels of dry winds,” said Euscategui.
According to the Department of Risk Management, there have been 460 wildfires this year. Drought conditions have resulted in the destruction of thousands of acres in throughout Colombia, particularly in the Caribbean region where 30,000 hectares have been engulfed by fire.
In the swamp area of Magdalena, the Fire Department, the Colombian Air Force and the Regional Autonomous Corporation of Magdalena is working closely with the Drummond oil company to control the fires. “We hope to extinguish the fire within the next few hours, but we must keep working to prevent the negative impact this is having on nature,” said the director of the Office of Risk Management, Carlos Ivan Marquez.
“Due to the drought and lack of rain, the amount of time and the aggressiveness of the fires, we have procured devices such as the ‘Bambi Bucket’ system from the Air Force and firefighters to respond quickly to this situation,” said Secretary of the Interior Atlantic Jaime Berdugo.
A wildfire that started in the foothills of the coastal mountain range Sierra Nevada, threatens to spread to other parts of the massif. Many crops have been destroyed by the flames, including coffee, banana and palm oil. Hundreds of farmers and plot owners have been affected, especially in the rural town of Cienaga.
“Gusts of strong winds have hindered operations” said the Air Force in a press release, unlike the fire in Repelon, Atlantic, in which Air Force vehicles successfully prevented the fire from spreading.
According to El Pais newspaper, ranchers in the department of Sucre say that there has been a poor harvest, with water reserves drying up and cattle being moved to prevent them dying of thirst. This has greatly impacted productivity of the dairy sector and farmers are being made redundant, as over 300 acres have been lost due to the fires.
In the department of Cesar many rivers have dried up completely and the region has not received rained in four months. It has been placed under a yellow alert. Whereas this region, like several others in northern Colombia, used to have an abundance of green pastures it is now fraught with desolation and arid earth.
According to Caracol Radio, Fire Commander Germán Andrés said that “90% of fires presented in the country in recent days, have been caused by the actions of humans, due to agricultural, forestry, or careless practices.”
Wildfires across the country
There have been 466 wildfires this year, of which five are active with control strategies are underway.The areas with active wildfire are Magdalena, Santa Marta (with two wildfires), Nunchía Casanare, Antioquia, and Cundinamarca Madrid.