November 19, 2013
South America is a continent rich with natural resources, dense forests, and a wide range of wildlife. Most of the continent’s countries started environmental initiatives in the beginning of the 1980’s creating national parks and a few protected areas. Currently there are several countries facing difficult obstacles put forth by gold mines, guerrillas, and deforestation in protecting all of their natural assets.
In Peru, years of illegal gold mining have left a very negative mark in the country’s Amazon rainforest. The damage was mapped by Peru’s Ministry of the Environment along with Carnegie Institution of Science via satellite imagery. They found that in the span of around thirteen years gold mines increased by 400 percent. The damage is very extensive; the extraction of gold requires for expansive amounts of forest area to be cleared. This is not just a problem for Peru, the Amazon is responsible for producing about 20 percent of the Earth’s oxygen. The mining industry in Peru is the country’s major foreign exchange generator and places fifth among the global production of gold.
Some countries are starting to take action. The President of Chile, Sebastian Pinera, has decided to suspend construction in Pascua Lama, a gold mine along the Andes straddling Chile and Argentina. He temporarily halted the construction because Barrick, the Canadian mining corporation behind the operation has not been complying with environmental regulations. Construction won’t resume until they take notice and act upon these regulations.
In Colombia, national parks are being compromised because of Guerrilla activity. These parks are located in remote areas which make them attractive for FARC rebels to occupy and conduct their business. Guerrillas also use natural parks to pace land mines. Over forty park officials have been killed while doing their jobs. Nonetheless, Colombia is recognized for its efforts in protecting the environment and the wildlife with a thorough national park system and in some instances Guerrilla presence deters other predators from committing deforestation or other harmful activities.
In Brazil, Amazon deforestation rose 28 percent this past year after being on decline since 2009. Deforestation in this country causes the majority of greenhouse gas emissions. Some say that this was caused because of a reform in Brazil’s forest protection law which reduced protected areas in farms and gave amnesty to regions destroyed before 2008. Not everybody agrees, Brazilian government officials have said that extensive criminal actions have been taken against perpetrators causing deforestation.
These are only a few environmental issues in four different South American countries. However, the Amazon spreads through nine countries (Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana) and provides oxygen for the whole planet and there are many natural resources in all of the continent that are important and need to be preserved.
– Ivanha Paz
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons (3)