Drug Trafficking Damaging Amazon Basin

By Dialogo
December 03, 2010

DRUGS should be legalized and taxed, what is forbidden is attractive to young people. LEGALIZE DRUGS NOW! On the other hand the real problem in every part of the world is the Capitalist System that is forever changing in one way or another the climate, in these regions (You all know which ones I am writing about) the temperatures reach levels that 30 years ago were imaginable. That is why CANCUN is important, change the capitalist system not the climate. To my knowledge the most interested one should be the most powerful to head this change setting the example to the world what is more important, life or a system that is already destroyed? Greetings BUT, IN THE END WHO BENEFITS FROM DRUG TRAFFICKING? THE LARGE FLOW OF MONEY THAT MAINTAINS THE DRUG MARKET; WHERE DOES IT COME FROM AND WHERE DOES IT GO? WHY ISN’T THE DEMAND FOR DRUGS TACKLED IN THE SAME WAY AS THE SALE OF DRUGS? ARE THE WORLD BANKS THE ONES WHO RECEIVE THESE DRUG MONIES? AND IF THIS INTERNATIONAL BANK THAT LAUNDERS THE MONEY FROM THE DRUG TRAFFIC; WHY HASN'T THERE BEEN ANY INTERVENTION AND WHY HASN'T INTERVENTION BEEN MADE PUBLIC? Excellent detailing of the damage done by illegal drugs to the environment and not only to the individuals hooked on them. Lots of talk, little action against climate change and its origin in South America because millions of miners are destroying our Amazonian jungle and the most important river in South America which is the Amazon River.
We need to add to this the destruction of our ecological reserves such as Tambopata and Manú by the miners. Even though we have promises from the countries that say they fight against this evil, the miners in Peru continue to destroy the South American jungle and to pollute the Amazon River.

Drug trafficking organizations are causing significant damage to the Amazon
rain forest and watershed in Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela, endangering the
region’s diverse flora and fauna and threatening the planet’s “green lungs.”
In addition, the production of staple crops such as potatoes and corn has
suffered as farmers have been forced to grow coca plants.
Dialogo recently interviewed environmental officials in some of the affected
countries about the damage caused by illicit drug production.

Colombia

“Illicit crop growers have started to develop mechanisms to avoid the state’s
eradication efforts," said Víctor Nieto, a researcher for Colombia’s National
Forest Research and Development Corporation (CONIF).
"Initially, this type of crop grew in open fields, so they were easily
identifiable on satellite images, and police planes could fumigate and eliminate
those crops," he said. Illicit crop growers attempted strong counter-measures,
Nieto said. "They sought ways to halt the advance of crop dusters and even went
so far as to string high-tension aerial cables from one hill to another, so the
planes would run into them and crash."
But eventually farmers settled on a different approach: cutting back natural
forests, and leaving only trees that provided greater aerial coverage.
"This allowed the crops to blend in with the tree canopy, making the
crops more difficult to eradicate by crop dusting from the air," Nieto said.
"The success of this approach encouraged the clearing of natural forests in
patches or lots resulting in serious loss of forested areas, a decline in the
quality of remaining forests, and interference with flora and fauna naturally found
in ecological corridors associated with these forests."
"Needless to say, the waste created by the processing camps – residue
from chemicals used to extract the active drug components – is dumped into streams
and rivers in the heart of the rain forest. The cans, plastic containers and other
waste are randomly discarded in rain forest.”
“It is very difficult for other crops to compete against a business as
profitable as coca production, so the community devotes is time to that," he
said.
Market pressures tend to foster dependence on illicit farming once it has
begun, Nieto said.
"Everything is affected by the market. Profitable crops increase the
value of consumer products in the region and, therefore, the community near the
production area has no choice but to enter the supply chain or be left out of the
consumer market.”
"In 2009, at the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen in 2009,
then-president of Colombia Álvaro Uribe called on participating countries to
strengthen their commitment against the production, consumption and trafficking of
narcotics. That commitment could involve even more meetings than were originally
contemplated," Nieto said.
Illegal armed groups have taken a financial stake in illicit crops, Nieto
said, complicated the issue even further.
"Years ago, guerrilla groups like the FARC and ELN were destroying oil
pipelines as a tactic to attack the government and the interests of multinational
capitalists," Nieto said, and "recent governments have invested heavily in
the elimination of armed groups."
A few years ago, the guerrillas undertook “visibility” projects, he said.
Their goal was to create instability and unrest with actions such as destroying
pipelines.
"These ideas are no longer used, and today the armed groups only seek
economic benefits for financing the war (or leaders). This, for the community, seems
to be the current lesson.”
The international community has responded to the environmental hazards of
illicit farming with programs like the UN's "Familias Guardabosques,"
Nieto said. The UN program develops sources of income for rural communities as an
alternative to cultivating narcotics.
"Then, the question was one of sustainability from a financial
standpoint," he said. "It was argued that once the financial resources ran
out, families would return to non-legal businesses. State resources were dedicated
to the program, along with international cooperation."
A new approach has gained support, Nieto said: paying communities for
preserving forestland the same amount that they would gain for cutting it down.
"It started with the analysis of how much money communities near forests
could be earning if they harvested timber from the forests, and the data showed that
after felling, removing and selling the timber, the profits were not worth the
effort put into it, or the value of the existing forests," he said.
The idea has been successful and implemented with great transparency, Nieto
said.
"Continual monitoring, which allows for assurance of conservation and
new bids for mitigation of climate change and reducing emissions from deforestation
and degradation, seems to be the way to create sustainability of the project over
time. The plan is still new and in a transitional phase, but is an excellent way to
simultaneously solve several of the community’s problems.”
All of these programs are only playing environmental defense, however, and
none have found a way to restore the damage already done according to Nieto.
"There are no serious forest restoration or recovery programs, and we
can only possible eradicate [illegal] crops and wait for nature to do the rest. The
forest is not capable of quickly rebuilding its forest cover; all of this will
require many years of work," he said.
"In the end, the real loser is mankind," Nieto said. "We will
lose forests that capture carbon, and we will then experience the effects of climate
change."
"Frequent reference is made to Colombia having been declared one of the
most biodiverse countries in the world, a national point of pride. It has been our
country’s goal to attain this recognition, and hopefully it might help to garner
support for conservation. In any event, a country like ours needs support in order
to realize characterization and conservation. Biodiversity characterization and
conservation should be tools for social development, and this is not always the
case," he said.

Ecuador

Ecuador faces different challenges, engineer Sonia Díaz from the National
Council for the Control of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (CONSEP) said.
“Ecuador is not a country of drug growers. Rather, it is considered a transit
country, and the greatest ecological damage in the world occurs on our northern
border with Colombia because of the crop dusting that has been done since 1997. You
can see how this has adversely affected rivers, biodiversity of native species, and
the populations in that area," she said.
Dr. Aguilar Alfaro from the Center for Biology at Universidad de Central de
Ecuador agreed.
“The damage to the ecosystem, extinction of species, contamination of water,
soil, plants and air, not to mention damage to large areas of fertile ground, has
affected the production of crops such as potatoes and corn.”

Peru

Drug trafficking is a threat to the environment in Peru as well, said César
A. Ipenza Peralta, advisor to Peru’s Ministry of the Environment.
"It is obvious that drug trafficking has one of the greatest impacts on
the Amazon, leading to severe deforestation of tropical forests and contamination of
the watershed."
Chemicals used during the three stages of the cocaine refining process
sometimes produces over two metric tons of waste per hectare of coca, he said – and
the local impact of the drug trade on soil, hydrology and biodiversity are often
devastating.
Farmers use large quantities of toxic pesticides are used to help clear new
land and to control weeds and insects.
Piles of processed coca leaves dumped near streams can cause further
environmental problems, he said.
"The leaves are saturated with toxic chemicals and, as they decay, they
become the main source of pollution for any nearby water source since they add a
huge amount of organic matter to the water. This increases oxygen demand and can
severely affect a waterway for a long stretch," Peralta said.
"The environmental damage to the country caused by drug trafficking
includes deforestation, loss of species and biodiversity, pollution of rivers and
water sources and loss of aquatic resources (fish)," he said.
But Peralta voiced optimism on government efforts to save the environment
from the ravages of the drug trade.
"We believe that Peru has made great strides in terms of biodiversity
issues and effectively protecting species," he said.
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