Over 35,000 fish have died in a Colombian river after it dried up because a dam was closed in what has been described as one of the worst environmental emergencies in the country’s history.
The shocking incident occurred in the Antioquia department of Colombia after the dam which powers the engine room of the Hidroituango Dam on the Cauca River was closed.
Video Credit: CEN/@LuOrozco5
The dam was closed on 5th February and the Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies Institute (IDEAM) report the river’s water level was 1.96 metres (6.4 feet) on 4th February but just 42 centimetres (16 inches) on 6th February.
Local media report the company in charge of the construction of the damn, Empresas Publicas de Medellin, did not take into consideration warnings about the devastating effects of closing the dam.
The company sent 800 workers to help in the rescue of 137,000 fish in danger of suffocating from the lowering water level. Reports state 35,000 fish have died as a consequence of the closure of the dam.
Local fishing communities have reportedly been devastated by the drought and Richard Sierra, the regional representative for indigenous communities in Bajo Cauca, said that dead fish cannot be eaten due to their high level of decomposition.
He added that local communities have been left without water for drinking, bathing or irrigating in the incident.
In the video, children can be seen catching fish with their hands in the shallow water and another clip shows the startling low level of the river.
The Environment Ministry had reportedly ordered the management of the Hidroituango Dam to take the measures to avoid environmental and social consequences, but they apparently were not heeded.
Ricardo Lozano, the Head of the Environment Ministry told local media that this situation could be considered as one of the most serious environmental emergencies suffered in the country.
The Director of the National Agency for Environmental Licences (ANIA), Rodrigo Suarez, asked for sanctions to be taken after he presents his report on Monday next week.
The Mayor of Guaranda, Pablo Rivas, told local media that it is the first time that the river can be crossed by foot in some parts.
Robinson Miranda, the Social and Environmental Director of Hidroituango, claimed on social media that 30,000 fish have been saved since the close of the dam and that only 747 animals were reported as dead but the figures from other organisations are much higher.