Monday, March 1, 2021

The dark history of the “golden” rivers of the Amazon

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NASA

A new photograph taken from the International Space Station (ISS) shows what appear to be “golden” rivers flowing through the Amazon rainforest. However, as the famous expression says, “not everything that glitters is gold”.

According to NASA’s Earth Observatory, which published the photo taken by one of its astronauts, the “golden” rivers that flow through the Amazon rainforest in the state of Madre de Dios, in eastern Peru, are actually prospecting wells, probably left by independent miners.

According to CNN, the wells are normally hidden from view by astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS), but they stand out in this photograph due to reflected sunlight.

The image shows the Inambari River and several wells surrounded by deforested areas of muddy debris. Independent gold mining sustains tens of thousands of people in the Madre de Dios region, making it one of the largest unregistered mining industries in the world.

Mining is also the biggest deforestation factor in the region and the mercury used to extract gold pollutes waterways.

The only road link between Brazil and Peru was aimed at boosting trade and tourism, but “deforestation may be the biggest result of the road”, according to NASA.

The publicly released photograph earlier this month was taken on December 24th. Madre de Dios is a untouched piece of the Amazon, where macaws and monkeys, jaguars and butterflies thrive.

However, while parts of Madre de Dios, such as the Tambopata National Reserve, are protected from mining, hundreds of square kilometers of rainforest in the area have been transformed in a toxic desert without trees.

The increases in the price of gold in recent years have created expanding cities in the jungle, complete with emerging brothels and shootings, as tens of thousands of people across Peru joined the modern gold rush.

In January 2019, a scientific study revealed that the deforestation of gold mining destroyed about 9,279 hectares of the Peruvian Amazon in 2018, according to the Monitoring Group of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP). This is the highest annual total recorded since 1985, based on studies conducted by the Amazon Forest Scientific Innovation Center at Wake Forest University.

Deforestation in 2018 surpassed the previous record of 2017, when about 9,160 hectares of forest were cleared, according to MAAP. This means that, in two years, gold mining has decimated the equivalent of more than 34,000 football fields in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest.

Maria Campos Maria Campos, ZAP //

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The dark history of the "golden" rivers of the Amazon