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Pollution suffocates the country's rivers

Pollution suffocates the country's rivers

Environmentalists and community entities agree that there is no magic wand to stop the degradation of rivers, so they appeal to government authorities to promote laws that put an end to the deterioration of natural water bodies.

In the country there are 38 hydrographic basins that produce about 93 thousand 388 million cubic meters of water per year —seven times above the world limit—, but according to a report by the National Institute of Seismology, Volcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology, the high degree of pollution in the streams could cause a shortage of that resource.

Virginia Mosquera, from the Institute of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment (Iarna) of the Rafael Landívar University (URL), highlighted that the country has permissible and lawless wastewater regulations, which leaves a wide void, because anyone can discharge waste in the rivers.

The most recent environmental report of the Government, presented in 2011, concludes that the contamination of water bodies is 90 percent, and that most of it is due to household, industrial and agro-industrial wastewater, and to a lesser extent by erosion soil and climatic phenomena such as El Niño.

That same report specifies that since 2011, the water of 19 rivers is not suitable for human consumption, among them the Motagua, the longest and with the highest flow.

Recent studies show that faecal waste and cadmium - a highly toxic metal similar to tin - are the pollutants with the greatest presence in rivers. In other cases aluminum, nitrates and chromium have been found.

The official report of 2011 refers to the fact that that year the number of deaths associated with water pollution increased, precisely in May, when 253 were registered nationwide.

The Legal, Environmental and Social Action Center (Calas) details in a report that some 12,000 minors die from diarrhea each year, due to the contamination of the water they consume.

Data from the Health Management Information System (Sigsa) indicate that this year 406 children have died from diarrhea and gastroenteritis of supposed infectious origin. Alta Verapaz registers the highest index with 67 cases; Huehuetenango, 58; San Marcos, 55, and Quiché, 38. In 2014, about 518 children perished.

The departments with the lowest number of deaths due to water contamination are Zacapa, Retalhuleu and El Progreso, each registering one case.

Widespread concern

Saúl Pauu Maaz, coordinator of the Commission for Life and Nature of Sayaxché, Petén, pointed out that there are no conservation or awareness programs in the La Pasión River, despite the fact that in May and June of this year the death of thousands of fish and other species of aquatic fauna along almost a hundred kilometers. Then the company Reforestadora de Palma (Repsa) was appointed as the main responsible; however the investigation has not concluded.

"Pollution causes losses in crops and is a threat, because in the next two decades there could be drought," said Pauu Maaz.

Roy Flores, director of the Sayaxché Health Area, pointed out that due to the contamination that was evidenced last June in the La Pasión river, several people had allergies, chronic diseases and digestive problems.

Alarmed

In El Progreso, the residents are alarmed by the contamination of the Motagua River, which has been turned into a garbage dump and a cattle grazing area.

"A protection plan has been requested from the authorities, because in addition to affecting health, 80 percent of the development of the economy depends on the river," said Rubén Paiz, president of the Community Development Council of El Rancho, San Agustín Acasaguastlán .

“In the summer season the odors that attract flies are strong. During the winter the river carries garbage and floods farmland ”, he added.

Mery Marín, delegate from the Ministry of the Environment, pointed out that if the problem persists, the Motagua could become a drain.

In addition, on the beaches of the protected reserve of Punta de Manabique, Puerto Barrios, Izabal, tons of garbage are observed at the mouth of the Motagua, which go to the Caribbean Sea, and the waves expel much of it, since neighbors from other departments throw their waste into the tributary.

Yandi Sarmiento, community leader from El Quetzalito, Puerto Barrios, pointed out that the high degree of contamination of the river affects health, since a large amount of garbage accumulates over several kilometers, which affects fishing activities.

Anguish is also experienced in Santa Rosa, due to the contamination of the Los Esclavos River. "It is unfortunate that since the river begins its route there is contamination, and it is because many municipalities do not have a wastewater treatment plant," said Kevin Jiménez, representative of the Diocesan Commission for the Defense of Nature, who criticized that it does The Ministry of Energy and Mines recently granted a construction license to a company that uses machinery that spills diesel into the tributary.

Other cases

In Alta Verapaz there are fears for the contamination of the Cahabón and Polochic rivers, despite the fact that from 2010 to 2012 several State institutions prepared the Strategic Plan for Sustainable Management, but it was not given continuity and the danger persists.

In Retalhuleu, the contamination of the Samalá River and the Azul and Muerto lagoons is questioned by the communities, who are concerned about how their waters are invaded by cane waste; However, José González, delegate from the Ministry of the Environment, assured that they have not received reports or complaints in this regard.

The flow of the Selegua River, in Huehuetenango, has dropped considerably in summer, because its waters are used to irrigate crops, according to residents of the Cuchumatanes area.

Neighbors and environmental entities consider it necessary for the authorities to focus their efforts on the conservation of natural resources, as they are increasingly scarce.

Free Press


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