Colombia cites ecological damage from drug trade
CARTAGENA, Colombia (Reuters) -- Drug traffickers have destroyed lush
rain forests and other areas of Colombia, covering more than twice the size
of the U.S. state of Delaware, to plant illicit drug crops, President Andres
Pastrana said Wednesday.
Citing what he described as "immense ecological damage" from the drug
trade, Pastrana said drug lords had cleared vast tracts of jungle and
mountain cloud forests to plant both coca, the raw material for cocaine, and
Pastrana gave no specific time frame for the destruction that he said had
been wrought across Colombia, including in many of its parks and nature
reserves which he described as "unique."
But he said a total of more than 4,145 square miles (10,750 sq km) had
been irreversibly damaged by traffickers, who dump what he said was an
estimated 316,000 gallons (1.2 mln liters) of dangerous chemicals into
Colombia's ground and waterways every year to cultivate and process their
Pastrana, who spoke at the start of a two-day international seminar on
cocaine trade in this Caribbean port city, did not refer in his speech to the
environmental cost of Colombia's U.S.-backed drug crop eradication
But environmentalists have long complained about collateral damage and
potential health risks to humans from the herbicides used in the aerial
spraying of the country's drug crops.
Colombia supplies an estimated 80 percent of the world's cocaine and has
the most extensive illicit drug plantations in Latin America, covering more
than 196,000 acres (79,500 hectares), according to U.S. drug experts.