Saturday, October 11

Water Issues in Bua

In each of our core countries we focus on a different aspect of development; in Ecuador, our focus is clean water. We´ve seen a number of water issues in Bua, and most of them seem to revolve around the river. About twenty or thirty years ago, the river water was potable and large fish lived in it -- a large part of the local diet. Now, the water is not remotely drinkable, the water level has shrunk, and only tiny minnows live there. Firstly, pollution has contaminated the water -- both from litter (there is no trash disposal in Bua, since wrappers from consumer products are a relatively new thing there), and from agricultural pesticides. Run-off from erosion has led to stagnation and weeds growing. People use the river for just about everything: bathing with non-biodegradeable soap, gutting fish, washing clothes, using bleach. Lastly, human waste disposal is contributing to the problem: currently, the sanitation system is either to simply use the woods as a bathroom, use an outhouse, or to use toilets that lead to overflowing septic systems. The run-off from all of this is making its way into the river, making the water contaminated and allowing algae to thrive.

This all raises a number of issues. One day our group went on a river clean-up walk, picking up the trash we saw, but because there is no disposal system, the bags of litter we collected will probably ultimately end up right back in the river. If the river is going to be cleaned up, there needs to be a garbage system, and everyone has to agree not to litter. Similarly, with agricultural pesticides, which the Tsa Chila say come from Mestizos (mixed ethnicity Ecuadorians) without education about how to use them, the lucrative economic benefit of seems to outweigh the long-term environmental impact.  The government pays $100 for each hectacre of preserved forest, but that same amount of land can bring in $4,000 from yucca cultivation, which leads to deforestation and erosion and chemical pesticide contamination.  

We're in the middle of working on our media projects which address this clean water issue -- there are four groups, and each works with a different form of media: text, podcast, video, or Google Earth.  I'm in the text group, and within a couple of days our final pieces should be up.

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