The Pilcomayo Agonizes Fishing

Three countries share the basin but none is responsible for the very serious problems facing, such as pollution from mining and civil works. Aboriginal people see their livelihoods threatened.

The Pilcomayo is not a river but a world, say those who know their complex nature and history. Today, the world is threatened by the impact they have had different natural and human factors for decades. The Gran Chaco ecosystem is at risk if a concrete and rapid action is taken. This trinational subbasin covering 272,000 square kilometers is part of the vast basin of the River Plate and is shared by Bolivia (31 percent), Argentina ( 25 percent) and Paraguay (44 percent). They live in that area 1.500.000 inhabitants. Of these, the majority belong to some of the 12 indigenous ethnic groups riverine (Weenhayek, Guarani, tapiete, chorote, tuff, wichi, Nivakle). Many suffer from extreme poverty and are threat to their own survival. “We just have pure silence , ” says ruefully Rosmery Herrero, from its typical coastal grill Villamontes (Bolivia), beside the majestic former Pilcomayo. “Fishermen do not have to eat because the fish disappeared; in May they cut the route to Argentina hurting many people and President Morales sends all foods months from La Paz. But for how long? Full Villamontes is affected; no what to put in refrigerated trucks; traders defaulted on their loans; many children leave school … Here is the Capital International Fisheries and our hotels are almost empty, like canteens. Tourists fled who is going to pay $ 10 for a portion of sad sabalito? ” A few kilometers from Villamontes, in the community of Caipirendita where fishing settlements (more than two thousand people) a general assembly are concentrated in August he gathered most zonal leaders. They also called for municipal technicians and representatives of nongovernmental organizations from Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia; all they attended urgently to find solutions to the shared catastrophe of the disappearance of the river. Causes and effects. Moses Sapiranda, Captain Grande Weenhayek Pueblo, hosted and spokesman for the requests of so many Bolivians affected by the hydrographic crisis downstream. “We can not wait any longer and we must seize that in 180 years of democracy recently we take into account now that blocked the road … we urge all leading foreign ministries of Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina that review what is done to the river downstream. Route 28 Project and pants prevent the fish rise to our territory and today we can not live our work. We hope and think that we do not pass through the nostrils with works that harm us. We do not want to migrate, and above all what anyone politicize our hunger! ” From the Foundation for Management and Regional Research (Serve), Luis Maria de la Cruz warns that” we must have absolute awareness that the problem of the Pilcomayo recognizes multiple “. causes and follows a chain of systemic effects, ie all impacts on all ” we can say that the Pilcomayo more than a river is a world; It is the hub of a shared territory.Emphasis should be placed on the ability of management and monitoring of the communities, fostering in them the ability to communicate to the respective foreign ministries regional crises to take action on the major issues of this basin , “he says.Among the main causes of ecological imbalance of the Pilcomayo, which accumulated for half a century triggered a devastating effect on more than a thousand kilometers long (from its source to the 7,500 meters high in the Bolivian Andes to the 250 meters at Mission La Paz, Salta) include: huge natural process of sedimentation, erosion and silting basin; pollution, salinization, desertification and the impact of civil works in different sections of the river. It explains De la Cruz: “The erosion and sedimentation are two natural components of the training process of the Pilcomayo. The current erodes the cliffs on curves (which hits the water) and leaves sediments on a reverse (opposite side), forming extensive beaches. What drags the river are remnants of the posglaciaciones. Consider that the Pilcomayo has about 20,000 years and it was this river forming the Gran Chaco. Perhaps one of the biggest problems is having elected national boundary between countries, since its course is not safe and clogged sections of the basin streams that make bathed and they often cause flooding “appear. A fact of fundamental importance is that the Pilcomayo river is the most amount of sediment in the world with an average annual rate of 125 million tons. Regarding pollution, holds the unenviable record of having the most polluted basin of southern Latin America. From its very nascent potosina, continuous and quietly receives waste from heavy metals from mine tailings. Sometimes this news everyday bursts into a scandal, as when there was the break the dam Porco Potosi, which in 1996 caused the spill in the trust of 360 thousand tons of toxic liquid. According to a study by JICA (International Cooperation Agency of Japan), this river contains a level of arsenic five thousand times higher than indicated as tolerable by WHO and 99 milligrams of lead per liter of water, when it is acceptable to 0.05 milligrams per liter. for customary droughts flow increases the level of contamination and salinization negative impact on the physical environment (soil and water courses) and mainly in the fish resources.the shad, basic food, work and source of income for a large part of the Bolivian native, has fallen fatally 1,440 tonnes in 1986 to 474 last year, with serious suspicions that fish contain in their spines and gill concentrations of cadmium and lead beyond unfit for human average values. But the most heated voices of the assembly fishermen Caipirendita agreed that the pants Project (hydraulic system that distributes water between Paraguay and Argentina up to Formosa) and Hidrovial work of embankment of route 28, also in the province, are the fundamental causes of the extremely low fishing in Bolivia, as shoals of tarpon can not migrate upstream after spawning the Bathed La Estrella. a mid last November, in the framework of the Week of Indigenous Peoples in Bolivia, again gathered in a representative assembly in Villamontes, delegates ORCAWETA (organization capitanías Weenhayek and tapiete), whose great captain and president, Moses Sapiranda, explained how through the years are more dramatic conditions in which thousands of people live following the ecological imbalance of the Pilcomayo. Sapiranda again reiterated the complaint for lack of political will on the part of the various levels of governments to resolve the complex situation that is short. Dragados sediment, engineering to ensure the normal flow of water, artificial lakes in Bolivia fishing, monitoring of communities on the river basin, networking between NGOs and states and effective intervention of the Tri -National Commission for the Development of the river Pilcomayo, would be some of the solutions proposed by the various victims. All of them are highly complex, but the big challenge to stop the agony of giant river of birds.