El Niño wreaks havoc in Colombia
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El Niño wreaks havoc in Colombia

Droughts and forest fires are severely damaging Colombia’s crops, economy and way of life.

Experts are blaming the recent high temperatures and lack of rainfall on El Niño, a repeated climatic phenomenon which sees a rise in temperatures of the Pacific Ocean.

The most recent cycle of the phenomenon is believed to have begun in May of 2015 and its damaging effects have been felt increasingly since.

Colombia is a country of two rainy seasons and typically experiences heavy rainfall during the months of October and November. The end of last year, however, proved unusually dry. As February begins, Colombians all over the country are looking anxiously up to the skies, hoping for the rain which seems reluctant to fall.

Drought and disaster

The southwestern department of Huila is one of many departments badly affected by the water shortage. The little water that is found must be preserved and limited to human use only, causing serious problems for the agricultural producers of the region. The coast, too, has experienced the ill effects of the climatic phenomenon.

Thousands of children in the northeastern department of La Guajira are suffering from malnutrition – and many dying – due to the drought, El Espectador reports.

Elsewhere, the mighty river Magdalena, stretching from the south of the country up to the Caribbean coast, is at a historically low level. A water source upon which so many are dependent, the river embodies the crisis which Colombia is currently living.

Fires breaking out all over the Colombian countryside have led to more problems. The dry, rain-deprived land means fires start, and more worryingly spread, with great ease. Many of the fires are suspected to have been started deliberately, or as the result of irresponsible firework and bonfire use. The fires devastate the lands and forests through which they rage and put at risks the lives of those who live nearby. The pungent smoke penetrates neighbouring towns and cities, reminding inhabitants of yet another unsavoury consequence of the El Niño phenomenon.

Economic effects

The economic implications of the climatic difficulties are just as serious. The destruction of agricultural lands by fires and the perishing of crops due to lack of water means the price of basic consumables is rising. Rice and onions are but a few of the many daily essentials for which Colombians are now paying more. Methods used to fight against the effects of El Niño are also proving costly. Helicopters laden with water tirelessly travel back and forth in an attempt to quench the country´s many forest fires. A necessary, if expensive, process.

Colombia’s wealth of ecosystems has left it vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Over the years, floods and landslides in particular have plagued the country. Poor infrastructure and lack of effective strategy to deal with such issues worsen their already devastating consequences.

As fires continue to rage, temperatures continue to rise and rain refuses to fall, one has to wonder just how much more damage will be inflicted by El Niño in Colombia.

See also:

The tale of Sambingo: Colombia’s first river to dry out due to illegal mining

Summer in the tropics: ‘BogHotá’ the oven that was once known as a fridge