ColombiaOne.comColombia newsIncrease in Forest Fire Risk Due to El Niño Phenomenon in Colombia

Increase in Forest Fire Risk Due to El Niño Phenomenon in Colombia


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Increase in forest fires due to El Niño phenomenon in Colombia- Credit: John McColgan / Public domain

Anticipating an increase in forest fires in Colombia, due to high temperatures and the El Niño phenomenon, the Colombian government has prepared an “urgent” council of ministers to analyze the contingencies that have put more than half of Colombia’s municipalities on high fire risk alert. According to data from the Ministry of Environment, the increase of forest fires could be 390%, so more than 800 firefighting units are available to attend emergencies.

According to a report of the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (Ideam), a total of 747 municipalities in the country are on alert. Of these, 495 are on red alert, 179 on orange and 73 on yellow, mainly in the Andean region. The departments most affected by these alerts are Boyaca, Cundinamarca, Santander and Meta, where the effects of the dry season at the beginning of the year are having a greater impact.

Alert for four months

The Minister of Environment, Susana Muhamad, highlighted the alert issued by her ministry due to the high temperatures of the first days of the year, which are making this dry season especially dangerous for the safety of the country’s forests.

“We are sending an alert to the country because of the risk of forest fires in the municipalities. We reinforce what has been announced by the authorities to face the phenomenon and maintain the work to contain deforestation,” said Muhamad.

Although it had already been predicted that the El Niño phenomenon, especially hard this year due to global warming, would affect the weather until May, the alert for critical risk of forest fires until April confirms the exceptional nature of the situation. In this context, the director of Ideam, Ghisliane Echeverry, has announced in a press conference that frosts have been registered in the savannah surrounding the city of Bogota, which also burn vegetation due to high daytime temperatures and low cloud cover that lowers temperatures at night.

62 forest fires in 10 days

Colombia has announced that in the first 10 days of 2024 it has attended “62 fires, of which 58 have been liquidated, 1 controlled and 3 are active”, as reported by Ideam. The government has emphasized that the El Niño phenomenon “is not a game” and that this first quarter of 2024 will be key to containing deforestation through the vigilance of the State and local communities.

The Ministry of the Environment has made a series of urgent recommendations: activation of the emergency follow-up protocol in municipalities and departments; constant vigilance so that communities, forest rangers and firefighters are alert to contain outbreaks and prevent major emergencies; prohibition of burning and bonfires; and rapid contact with relief agencies in the event of fire outbreaks.

President Gustavo Petro has scheduled an emergency council of ministers for Thursday, January 11, to discuss forest fire risks and initiate contingency plans, focusing on the most vulnerable municipalities.

“We are on red alert for forest fires across the nation. This is due to El Niño, exacerbated by global warming. This year could be the hottest globally in recorded history,” the president announced on social media. He urged national policymakers to prioritize water management, stating, “Every mayor and governor, and the national government, must prioritize water.”

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