Colombia’s Human Rights Ombudsman Calls For Urgent Action To Prevent Wildfires

by | Jan 27, 2024 | Daily News, Environmental News

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In a pressing call to action, Colombia’s human rights ombudsman has appealed to local authorities in wildfire-prone regions to adopt urgent measures to prevent wildfires. The call comes amidst the environmental minister’s warnings about the heightened climate threats facing the Andean nation. The government, led by leftist President Gustavo Petro, announced plans earlier this week to declare a natural disaster, aiming to unlock funds for combating the widespread fires. These have been intensified by a severe dry season, further aggravated by a potent El Niño event known for bringing hotter and drier conditions.

Environment Minister Susana Muhamad highlighted the unprecedented intensity of this year’s El Niño, setting new temperature records. “This brings new risks that we are beginning to anticipate, which have not occurred in the past,” Muhamad stated, signalling uncharted climate challenges ahead. The drought affecting Colombia’s Amazon regions, exacerbated by climate change, is also seen across eight other South American countries. These conditions necessitate urgent measures to prevent wildfires, as the dry and hot climate significantly increases the risk of fires breaking out and spreading rapidly.

Colombia's Human Rights Ombudsman Calls For Urgent Action To Prevent Wildfires

The human rights ombudsman, Carlos Camargo, emphasised bolstering Colombia’s disaster response capabilities. He advocated for enhancing fire departments’ logistical and operational capacities and urged for diligent monitoring of resources crucial for managing such risks.

The urgency of the situation is underscored by the lack of official fire departments in 17 of Colombia’s 32 provinces. This year, Colombia has already witnessed 319 forest fires, with 273 successfully extinguished, which equates to roughly 10 fires per day. These fires have wreaked havoc on the country’s forests and moorlands, causing significant damage to flora and fauna.

In Colombia, the battle against wildfires is reaching a critical point, with 11 fires now under control but 34 others continuing to blaze fiercely across the country. Among these, fires in Tuparro National Park and areas adjacent to Bogota stand out, casting a veil of smoke over the capital and raising alarms about air quality and visibility. The situation has escalated, so the environment ministry has issued warnings to nearly 1,000 municipalities nationwide, signalling an unprecedented fire risk. Over half of these areas are on red alert, indicating the severe and immediate danger they face. This widespread threat underscores the urgency for swift and decisive measures to curb the fires’ spread and mitigate their impact. As the fires ravage crucial ecosystems and close in on populated areas, the call for action grows louder, emphasizing the need to safeguard communities, preserve biodiversity, and protect Colombia’s natural heritage from these relentless wildfires.

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