Saturday, August 7, 2010

Victory for Málaga Bay

A whale celebrates in Málaga Bay!
In a surprising move, in what of its last decisions, the extremely pro-business Uribe administration has made Málaga Bay, on Colombia's Pacific coast, a national park. Nobody disputes that the bay, which receives yearly visits from whales, has tremendous environmental value. But the bay is also a convenient site for a cargo port - it's deep enough for huge post-Panama ships, which won't even fit thru the existing Panama Canal. Buenaventura, the Pacific coast port which currently handles most of Colombia's cargo, is too small for those ships.

But environmental authorities concluded correctly that a port, with all of its leaked petroleum and other chemicals, the noise and wakes of ships and the transmission of exotic organisms in bilge water, would do incalculable damage to the region's ecosystem. Still, authorities nevertheless left open the possibility of a port being created there decades in the future, if technology has improved.

Perhaps Colombian officials should also look at the city of Buenaventura, which, despite the wealth moving thru its port, is one of the poorest and most violent cities in Colombia, and probably all of South America. Unfortunately, the city's wealth hasn't helped many of its citizens, who may work for drug traffickers or at dangerous day labor jobs loading and unloading ships. The port's vary success has made it a desired route for drug exporters, who battle violently for control. The city's residents get caught in the crossfire.

Written by Mike Ceaser, of Bogota Bike Tours

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