- A report from the Political Ecology Observatory of Venezuela outlines the worst environmental problems that South America faced in 2021.
- They include oil spillages, deforestation and mining, as well as a lack of clean drinking water in areas with degraded watersheds.
- The lack of transparency at all levels of government has made it difficult to track environmental parameters in Venezuela.
- It does note, however, that recent events have contributed to many public health crises.
Conservationists encountered a problem while trying to compile a review of the state of Venezuela’s environment in 2021. The government doesn’t publish statistics on infrastructure, deforestation, or mining. It also actively blocks researchers from looking into threats to local ecosystems.
The result was yet another year of environmental devastation. There are no reliable statistics to tell if it was better than other years, but 2021 was marked in a wide range of environmental devastation, including pollution, water scarcity, and violations by Indigenous groups rights. Reportby the Political Ecology Observatory of Venezuela.
To fill the data gap, they compiled news reports, social posts, and research from local conservation organisations.
Elsa Rodrguez from the observatory said that there is not enough information about the social and environmental consequences of most issues. There are not enough statistics to determine the dimensions and scope of many things.
The effects of a collapsed oil industry
According to the report, government reports on oil spillages, which are one of the most serious threats to biodiversity in Venezuela have not been published since 2016. The OEP relied upon independent satellite readings and complaints submitted online by local fishers to understand what happened in 2021.
According to the organization, there were at least 73 oil spillages in the country last fiscal year. One of the spillages was 3.6 million liters (951,000 gal) of oil from a Falcn facility that had been operating for years without any maintenance checks. The oil was poured into the sea for almost two weeks, causing havoc in marine ecosystems and mangroves which are crucial to preventing coastal erosion.
NASA published September’s first issue PhotosLake Maracaibo is 13,000 km (5,000 miles) in area. It is covered in oil slicks, algae blooms, and has a total surface area of 13,000 km (5,000 miles). Guiana lives in the lake. Dolphin (Sotalia guianensis) and Maracaibo wood turtle (Rhinoclemmys diademata), but also hosts thousands of oil wells and pipelines.
Venezuela has more that 300 billion barrels of proven crude oils reserves, making it the largest oil reserve in the world. Despite the fact that many facilities are being neglected and falling apart, oil continued to be the country’s main export last fiscal year.
The report stated that Venezuela’s case shows the simultaneous effects of both the traditional oil industry operations and the abandonment impacts.
Many forms of deforestation
Satellite readings also show that the mining and processing of cobalt, gold, and other minerals has increased dramatically. This not only polluted many streams and rivers with chemicals like mercury but also cleared large areas of forest in Bolvar and Amazonas.
According to the report, there were at least 2,000 miners in Yapacana National Park, Amazonas, this year. This contributed to 2,227 hectares (5.503 acres) deforestation. 1,000 hectares (2.471 acres) were lost to mining in Canaima National Park.
It was nearly impossible to determine exactly how much timber was removed from protected areas or surrounding forests in 2021 due to mining, or if the rate of clearing increased or decreased over previous years.
Based on local reports, and the work of other environmental groups, the OEP identified illegal logging and unregulated cattle ranching as additional drivers for deforestation across the country.
Rodrigo Lazo, a socioenvironmental NGO, explained to Mongabay that Venezuela’s main cause of forest loss is agricultural activities. There is a lot of information available about mining, but it is only a small percentage.
The report pointed out that the absence of regulations and effective environmental management has left forested regions largely unprotected. This allows for logging and timber trafficking to continue unassisted, sometimes in coordination with powerful individuals.
According to the report, environmental crime is not punished with any criminal penalties.
According to the report, even in urban areas trees were being cut down at an alarming pace by residents who had difficulty accessing cooking gas or who relied solely on charcoal production as their main source of income.
Public health crisis
According to the report, oil spillages, deforestation, and mining all contributed to an increase in public health crises last year. Residents were exposed and at increased risk from natural disasters and toxic chemicals.
Rodrguez said that environmental problems should be treated as part of the daily problems Venezuelans are facing. All of these elements are interconnected.
She cited mudslides, as an example, because more deforestation in places such as the state of Mrida where thousands of residents were displaced during spring and summer rainy periods contributed to higher rates erosion and left ground bare and unable capture higher flows.
According to the report, many Venezuelans are now facing a water shortage crisis in 2021 due to the degradation of watersheds. The U.N. High Commission for Human Rights Many of the protests in the country last year were sparked due to a lack of water.
Some residents became ill from the lack of water filtering or the failure to maintain the infrastructure necessary to provide safe delivery systems. The report found that around 80% of the country’s garbage is located in open-air dumps. Sometimes, these dumps can leak into drainage systems or other waterways.
The report concluded that the main causes of the current state of Venezuela’s inability to provide adequate protection for its population through proper management and sustainability are the economic crisis, institutional collapse, indifference and corruption, as well as private businesses responsible for waste and residues. This leads to many environmental and public health problems.
Banner image: Canaima National Park. (Photo courtesy Wikimedia)
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