The study shows that the river basin is a veritable sewer, containing cyanide, lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury, used in mining, coliform bacteria from human waste, and nitrates from agrochemicals. He has signed an agreement to implement urgent measures with the local social organisations that produced the report. Lead was found throughout the basin, particularly in the Anticona river, where it was found at concentrations times higher than the WHO reference levels and the quality baseline used in the study. The local quality baseline was established by experts on the basis of analysis results from the water in nine rivers, sampled near their sources, where the water is regarded as the cleanest in the basin. In the Yauli river, which forms part of the Mantaro basin, lead levels are three times higher than the Class III reference level, the Peruvian standard for agricultural and livestock use. After the tributary flows through La Oroya, its lead levels are 16 times higher than the water quality baseline adopted by the study.
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LIMA, Oct 9 IPS - Social organisations in Peru have joined forces to save the Mantaro river, which is being killed by pesticides, untreated sewage, and the waste products dumped by the mining industry. The river, which runs through the Andes mountain range in central Peru at between 3, and 4, metres above sea level, is one of the main sources of irrigation water and electric power in the region. But its waters contain heavy metals like copper, iron, lead and zinc, according to studies by governmental and non-governmental bodies, which warn that the river is polluted by the mining industry and by the runoff of fertilisers and pesticides from the intense agricultural activity in the area.
The one-and-a-half-year campaign has involved monitoring of pollution in the water, soil and air in the Mantaro river valley, with the aid of the Saint Louis University School of Public Health from the U. Other focuses have been health care and environmental awareness-raising efforts among local populations affected by the pollution, as well as the establishment of dialogue among the various parties to agree on a common agenda.
Government institutions have backed the studies and have signed agreements to take remedial measures. There are 17 active mining operations in the Mantaro river valley, as well as dozens of mines that have been abandoned, all of which cause serious damage to the environment and human heath, according to the Ministry of Energy and Mines. Another source of pollution is a giant smelting complex belonging to Doe Run, a U.
Medical tests carried out in the smog-blanketed town have found high blood levels of lead among local children. On Aug. The report found lead levels in the river of 0. The study reported severe changes in ecosystems, the loss of flora and fauna, the pollution of rivers and the potential risk of harm to underground water systems, as well as acid pollution that is dispersed by the wind, degrading soils and grassland.
A report by the non-governmental Union for the Sustainable Development of the Province of Yauli-La Oroya UNES said the liquid effluents generated by the mining industry continue to affect water quality in the Yauli river which flows into the Mantaro river , making the water unsuitable for livestock and irrigation.
One of the most critical points is the area around the Kingsmill tunnel, built in the s to drain mine workings. The tunnel discharges water into the Yauli river, thus carrying metals like copper, iron and zinc into the Mantaro river, reported UNES.
Air pollution in the area is also alarming. The plant also emits tons of sulphur dioxide a day, more than four times the maximum allowed by Peruvian law, according to the Ministry of Energy and Mines. CONAMA reports that the smelter is responsible for 99 percent of the toxic gases breathed by the people of La Oroya, which cause serious respiratory ailments and learning problems among local children.
In addition, 1, local children with high blood lead levels receive nutritional supplements and vitamin C, to alleviate the effects of lead and other toxic elements.
The dialogue panels including community leaders and local authorities set up in the six provinces that the Mantaro river runs through, to discuss possible solutions that will be taken into account by the central government, are another key aspect of the campaign. A panel was established in late September in Yauli-La Oroya — a real achievement, given the low level of local support for environmental initiatives due to the strong backing for Doe Run, the engine of the local economy.
Lanegra, one of the officials most heavily involved in the campaign against pollution in the Mantaro river valley, believes that one of the major obstacles is a decentralised environmental authority. All rights reserved. Republish Print. The Week with IPS. Your contribution will make a huge difference. Make a Difference.
ENVIRONMENT-PERU: Joining Forces to Save the Mantaro River
ENVIRONMENT-PERU: A (Toxic) River Runs Through It