Last week’s mudslides in Colombia are a grim reminder of what can happen when the earth moves in ways we didn’t expect. Hundreds have died and hundreds more are still missing after heavy rains on Friday, March 31, caused three rivers to overflow their banks. The slides occurred in and around the city of Mocoa in the southwestern part of the country. You can see photos here.
The country’s president, Juan Manuel Santo, blamed the mudslides at least in part on climate change, saying the region received heavier than normal rainfall—about a third of what it normally gets over the course of a month in a single night. The ground was already saturated from heavier than average rains. The floods washed away homes, vehicles, roads, and at least two bridges, complicating evacuation and rescue efforts. Other contributors to the mudslides are the hilly terrain and, unfortunately, years of deforestation that left the hillsides vulnerable.
Pre-conference workshops Repairing Entrenched, Incised, and Degraded (Urbanized) Streams – Techniques and Case Studies Monday August 28, 2017 and BMP Selection to Improve Your Watershed Monday August 28, 2017. You may register for these without also registering for the annual conference. Download the StormCon Conference Program here.
This isn’t the only time Colombia has experienced mudslides. Storms and the subsequent landslides in 2015 killed 80 people in the northern part of the country.
Rainforest once covered 80% of the country, and it’s estimated that 10% of the world’s species are found there. Currently a little more than half of the country is forested. The trees have been lost lo several different forces: agriculture and livestock, including illegal coca crops used to produce cocaine; an expanding population; energy-producing activities and mining; and logging. Wildfires have also taken a significant toll.
One program that might help limit deforestation is REDD (“reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation”), which is also active in other South American countries including Peru. You can read more about REDD’s efforts in Colombia here.