Fumigation Poisons Water and Food in Rural Communities

News from Colombia | on: Friday, 18 January 2008

Colombian Government aerial fumigation planes have destroyed food crops and water supplies in two rural villages in south west Colombia. Farmers working the land when the planes flew over were also covered in the poisonous Glyphosate chemicals used in the fumigation missions that are allegedly aimed at eradicating coca crops the raw material used to produce cocaine.

The most recent incident occurred on January 4th in the remote villages of La Dominga and Cana Brava in the municipality of Bolivar in Cauca department. Crops including cassava, beans, plantain, sugar and maize were all destroyed and the five streams that provide water for drinking and irrigation in the zone were all poisoned leaving the communities, which have no electricity, with no access to drinking water.

Due to shortages, the peasant farming communities in the area have been forced to consume both poisoned water and food leaving a large number of people with serious health problems. The problem has been compounded as the fumigation also destroyed crops used to feed animals. Mules are the only form of transport in the region.

According to information from the area the majority of people in both villages are now suffering from diarrhoea and stomach problems as well as severe headaches, respiratory problems, swelling and sores on the skin. Those who were actually physically sprayed themselves are showing the worst symptoms.

Speaking by radio the school teacher in La Dominga reported that 90% of the children in the community are now experiencing symptoms and that pregnant women in the area are extremely fearful that damage has been done to their unborn babies. Fumigation in the region two years ago led to four babies dying after being born prematurely.

With no clean water, the health situation of the community is deteriorating rapidly, and they may be forced to flee their homes and land as a result.

The Colombian Government has been repeatedly criticised by human rights and environmental groups for their practice of fumigating large regions of rural Colombia. Though the Government describes it as part of the 'war on drugs', numerous reports say that the chemicals are sprayed indiscriminately rather than just on coca crops as claimed by the Government. The resulting health and environmental consequences have caused thousands of Colombian to leave their land. Ironically, it is said that the only plant that can grow back after being sprayed is in fact the coca plant.

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