The effects of this month’s massive oil spill in a major Colombian river are becoming more evident.
"I have almost nothing to eat. The entire life we had from the (Magdalena) river is now contaminated," Elkin Cala tells local media.
So far, hundreds of people in the eastern part of Santander province are without food and water after the Colombian state oil company, Ecopetrol, let some 24,000 barrels of crude oil spill into the Lizama River, close to the 1,528 km long Magdalena River. The crude flow now pollutes 24 km of the Lizama river and 20 kilometres of the Sogamoso River.
Claudia Gonzalez from the National Authority of Environmental Licensing (ANLA) says that 70 families have been treated for medical complications due to the oil spill. France 24 reports that an estimated 2,400 tropical species have died as a result of the crude spill, while some 1,200 have been saved, reports Ecopetrol.
Environmentalist Julio Carrizosa says of the spill: "Nothing like this has happened before. This is a warning of what oil extraction can bring in vulnerable places where people still live from nature. That’s why we have to be more careful with oil extracting," Carrizosa tells France 24.
ANLA officials say that the spill occurred March 2, but the cleanup effort was botched owing to poor emergency clean up planning by Ecopetrol. Colombia’s Ministry of Environment is planning to sanction the company for its inability to control the major spill and for the extensive damage it has caused. Authorities still don’t know what caused the initial spill.
Ecopetrol joined the clean-up initiative, constructing 13 control points and 56 barriers along two separate ravines, as well as containment dikes, but the crude still flows. The company’s website reads that a specialized "snubbing unit" that can "cap the well definitely" will be arriving to help with the cleanup.
"The environmental damage that oil extraction produces has to do with the unplanned events or having a lack of information regarding these situations, for example, fracking," added Carrizosa.