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 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.” 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 ISNâ€™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 ManÃº 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. Ecuador 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.