Friday, February 24, 2012

Bogotá's Suffering Wetlands

Kids look over a Bogotá wetlands.
(Photo from: Maomolina)
Hard as it is to believe for those of us living amidst Bogotá's concrete and asphalt, the savannah where Colombia's capital is located was once a wetlands area. Back then, the rivers which ran down from the city's Eastern Hills spread out and washed over the plains. Today, almost all of those rivers are polluted and in pipelines.

Locations of nine of Bogotá's wetlands,
or 'humedales' in Spanish.
(Map from Wikipedia.)
The wetlands are one reason why the tombs in Bogotá's Central Cemetery and other cemeteries are placed mostly above ground.

Cleaning up the crude in a Bogotá canal. (Photo: El Tiempo)
But Bogotá's wetlands have suffered tremendously from their city surroundings, including from paving, pesticide and chemical run-off and even their use as trash dumps. In many areas, the organic wastes flowing into the marshes have nourished exotic weeds, which choke off native plants and animals. And, yesterday, more than 2,500 gallons of crude oil spilled into a canal leading to a wetland area in north Bogotá, altho authorities reported blocking and collecting most of that crude.

A Canadian plover,
which visit Bogotá's wetlands. 
Chestnut heron.
In the 1950s, Bogotá still had 50,000 hectares of wetlands, which has plummeted to roughtly 500 hectares today. Nevertheless, the city still has between nine and thirteen major wetlands, altho some are in bad shape. I once spent a day with volunteers pulling sacks of garbage out of a wetlands area near Parque La Florida just west of Bogotá. The quantity and variety of trash we pulled out - including several objects we couldn't identify - was astonishing.

Yet, despite it all, the wetlands still harbor bird, rodent and plant species - including providing habitat for some birds which migrate as far north as Alaska. The wetlands also serve as natural filters for wastewater and reservoirs which reduce flooding.

The Santa Maria wetland. (Wikipedia.)
Related post: The ALO or the Environment?

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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