Escudo de la República de Colombia

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Colombia fails in health of its oceans

The Ocean Health Index (OHI) analyzes variables such as biodiversity, water cleanliness, and coastal protection. Colombia scored only 52 of 100 possible points. UN experts are trying to explain why the country has flunked the test.

Palmira, 05 de octubre de 2012Agencia de Noticias UN-

Colombia scored 52 points and was ranked 101st, behind countries such as Mexico, Ecuador, Chile and Brazil.

According to experts, people and companies continue indiscriminately polluting the ocean.

OHI variables.

“The sea is a long ways from the locomotives which President Santos has been talking about, nowhere else can you see the ocean as the fundamental basis of his strategies”, says professor Mancera.

Forty-seven percent of Colombian territory is coastal, however many inhabitants are unaware of its potential.

In a collaborative project, 65 world oceanographic scientists and other experts are working with more the 100 databases. The OHI index provides several variables which help to rank the oceanic health around the world. 

The ten points assessed by the study involve the wide variety of benefits which a healthy ocean provides, from the food we eat, to the coastal places we value and enjoy. Therefore, the average of the 10 scores for each point comprises the overall score for each country according to the study. 

Colombia achieved a score of only 52, and ranked 101 internationally, well below other Latin-American countries such as Mexico, Ecuador, Chile and Brazil. The Colombian ranking is the result of low scoring in aspects such as carbon accumulation, coastal protection, tourism and recreation, cleanliness of water, and biodiversity. 

For Universidad Nacional de Colombia ecology and marine pollution experts, these results are very concerning, and should call the attention of those who manage natural resources and policy-makers, in order to preserve them. 

“This index is an important tool for making prudent political and personal decisions. The score we’ve obtained is a huge negative, we basically failed in ocean sanitation, as there are 10 elements which comprise the study, and most of the variables are negative and with a downward trend, which is a very troubling issue for the country”, says Ecology PhD and UN-Caribbean Director, Luis Ernesto Mancera. 

Pollution and biodiversity 

According to the study, on the issue of clean waters, the goal is zero pollution, measuring the extent of pollution by means of eutrophication (nutrient excess), chemical substances, pathogens and trash levels. 

On this point Colombia scored 67, while the world average is 78, which for UN-Palmira Water Pollution Research Group Director and Professor, Guillermo Duque, is due to the lack of environmental awareness on the part of both companies and private citizens who pollute this valuable resource. 

“We think we have a never-ending source of clean water, but the reality is that almost all of our water sources are contaminated. There are companies and people which indiscriminately throw their waste into the water, thinking it will dilute, but there are negative effects on human health and biodiversity”, says Duque. 

“Tourism and illegal mining are highly determining ocean sanitation factors. We discovered fecal coliforms at El Rodadero and Cartagena which significantly impact the inhabitants of these coastal regions. Likewise, tourism is exploiting the resources without really understanding, and protecting them”, says the expert. 

On the other hand, we did no better in the category of biodiversity. Colombia scored 68, while the global average score was 83. Ernesto Mancera thinks that we are losing biodiversity from mangroves and marines pastures, which are strategic ecosystems which continue degrading on daily basis. 

“We have seen how big tourist building projects have felled important mangrove areas in the Caribbean, specifically in Cartagena and Santa Marta. This violates governmental policies which prohibit building in low tide areas. Now the problem is to enforce compliance with the environmental regulations”, says Mancera. 

The sea as a locomotive 

Researchers say that in practice, the environmental protection system lacks coordination and articulation from where to manage natural resources. 

According to the UN-Caribbean Director, Colombia is a country where   47% of its territory is coastal, and many inhabitants are unaware of the importance of our oceans. Therefore, we need to strengthen scientific research on oceanographic issues. 

“The sea is a long ways from the locomotives which President Santos has been talking about.  Nowhere else can you see the ocean as the fundamental basis of his strategies. We need to turn it into a real developmental motor, not only from the touristic vantage point, but also from goods and services, CO2 capture, alternative energies, transportation, fishing and other perspectives”, he says. 

For Professor, and Oceanography and Coastal Sciences PhD., Guillermo Duque, “we need to generate joint strategies between the universities, companies and the government in order to promote the care, preservation and continued research of this key resource for the development of the country”.

(Por: Fin/JCR/clc/sup
)
N.° 502

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