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Colombia Braces for El Niño Phenomenon


Colombia Niño Phenomenon climate impact
El Niño Phenomenon will affect Colombia until May 2024 – Photo: Pxhere / Public Domain

El Niño’s wrath threatens to severely affect Colombia until May 2024, with the most intense months expected to be November, December, and January. This prediction comes from the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology, and Environmental Studies (Ideam), which has warned of severe droughts in the Andean region of the country during these months and the likelihood of forest fires in the Caribbean coastal areas.

To mitigate the effects of this natural phenomenon, the Colombian government has allocated 2.2 trillion pesos, which will be used for anticipatory actions, execution, emergency response, and recovery efforts. This announcement was made by the Ministry of the Environment, which has also warned that the already vulnerable La Guajira department appears to be the region which will be impacted the most. There is concern that extreme weather conditions may lead to a significant loss of animals in this department, which would ultimately affect human nutritional needs.

Impacts in Colombia

El Niño is a natural phenomenon that involves abnormal warming of surface waters in the central and eastern tropical Pacific, especially off the coasts of northern Peru and Ecuador, and it periodically affects Colombia and other countries in the region.

While the effects have been noticeable for months, they are expected to intensify in the next three months: November, December, and January, and continue until May 2024. During this time, various effects are expected, depending on the region of the country. In the Andean region, drought will be the most evident factor, along with flash floods and frosts.

This could affect electricity production because, in the absence of nuclear power plants, a large percentage of energy generation in Colombia relies on hydroelectric power plants. Fear of this has been looming as a serious threat to Colombia for months. In fact, some media outlets have already recalled the “Gaviria hour,” a widespread power outage that occurred between 1992 and 1993 and lasted for more than a year during the presidency of Cesar Gaviria.

Colombia Niño Phenomenon climate impact
Prolonged drought is one of the effects of El Niño in Colombia – Photo: John McColgan / Public Domain

The government’s response

The national government announced significant resources for the implementation of the National Risk Management Plan for the El Niño phenomenon, which will be carried out from October 12 until 2024, in accordance with the forecasts of Ideam.

The plan is primarily aimed at the 176 municipalities most susceptible to the impacts of the natural phenomenon.

The National Unit for Disaster Risk Management (Ungrd) will control a significant portion of the mobilized resources to benefit the country’s communities through three lines of intervention: disaster management, risk reduction, and risk knowledge.

In addition, 1.2 trillion will be invested in anticipatory actions. In the response phase to the phenomenon, 679 billion will be allocated, while 344 billion will be earmarked for the recovery cycle established in the plan’s development.

“This agenda today allows us to gather all the evidence to generate the necessary preventative actions. We must protect communities that may be at risk due to the phenomenon,” said Olmedo Lopez Martinez, the Director-General of Ungrd.

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