DixPix Photographs

     

SOUTH CORDILLERA

 
     
  Problems : THE ENVIRONMENT  

 

Environmental concerns are neither as pressing nor as recognized through most of the South Cordillera, especially outside of the cities.  In the great empty territories of the mountains and deserts, the problems arise more from land use decisions than from contamination or pollution.  Nevertheless, there are some cases of interest.

 

Those who live in Santiago will certainly be well aware of the problems of air pollution, especially in the winter months.  It is supposed to be a mixture of smoke, fumes and dust. Click to see big picture (640x364 pixels; 58 KB)
Santiago actually has a spectacular backdrop of mountains which rise to as much as 4000 meters, but it is seldom that even this hazy view is granted from near the city center. Click to see big picture (640x440 pixels; 64 KB)
This is from a mountain looking down at the smog trapped in the natural basin holding Santiago by a common temperature inversion. Click to see big picture (640x395 pixels; 67 KB)
Big cities have their own types of pollution, including noise, congestion and crowding.  Although considered upper middle class, life in vertical storage lockers is not for everyone. Click to see big picture (640x411 pixels; 125 KB)
Some of the smoky air stems from the ritual burning of cropland, supposedly to increase fertility. Click to see big picture (640x436 pixels; 121 KB)
Even at the altitude of 4800 meters in the Cordillera Negra of Peru, there seems to be a habit of setting fire to grass.
And then there are the coke-kilns, scattered wherever there is wood to burn, with the slow-growing espino preferred.  Land is cleared to feed these primitive structures. Click to see big picture (633x480 pixels; 139 KB)
The fuel is ignited with very little air, so that it smokes for days.  The coke so produced is sold in the cities for the ritual asados (barbeques). Click to see big picture (623x480 pixels; 109 KB)
And then there are the industrial sources, this one belonging to the government owned ENAMI.  It is on the coast, but Santiago is more directly affected by a government smelter above Rancagua to the south. Click to see big picture (295x480 pixels; 25 KB)
Smog seldom seems to be a problem on the windy Argentine side of the Cordillera, but this is one of many flares burning off natural gas which accompanies oil production. Click to see big picture (277x480 pixels; 56 KB)
But there are also other gases involved, including the dangerous hydrogen sulfide.  This sign warns people not to loiter in the area due to poisonous, sulfurous gas. Click to see big picture (432x480 pixels; 61 KB)
The Chilean smelters in the Atacama Desert, such as those associated with Potrerillos and El Salvador can caste their fumes across empty spaces in which there is little living to be affected. Click to see big picture (640x428 pixels; 82 KB)
But their liquid effluent can be something else.  Here where the run-off from El Salvador reaches the sea, there is a lot of life at risk. Click to see big picture (640x374 pixels; 109 KB)
And there are places where the water is dangerously polluted, this sign reads that swimming is prohibited on danger of death. Click to see big picture (640x417 pixels; 80 KB)
Factories on the north coast of Peru have turned the ocean there into this vile green color. Click to see big picture (341x480 pixels; 69 KB)
A tarred pelican fails to take flight. Click to see big picture (640x460 pixels; 88 KB)
It is difficult to say what portion of the dead birds and other sea life which litter the beaches are victims, at least in part, to pollution. Click to see big picture (640x399 pixels; 80 KB)
This sea lion is dying of wounds.  They were likely caused by accidental? collision with a boat, but the anger of many fishermen towards anything that eats fish is discussed in The Fishing LIfestyle. Click to see big picture (640x467 pixels; 150 KB)
Nor does one have to go to the Atacama for water pollution.  Here the Rio San Francisco, bright green with effluent from copper processing, is heading toward Santiago to form the Mapocho River. Click to see big picture (314x480 pixels; 87 KB)
And this stream below La Paz, Bolivia has accumulated so much detergent or other contaminants that it actually foams where disturbed. Click to see big picture (640x473 pixels; 113 KB)
But by far the biggest environmental problem in agricultural areas arises from the use of insecticides and other pesticides. Click to see big picture (297x480 pixels; 45 KB)
These may not be very good for those eating the produce, but it is far more dangerous for agricultural workers.  This is discussed in more detail under the heading of Agricultural Lifestyle. Click to see big picture (640x455 pixels; 135 KB)
Finally, in Antofagasta, a mountain of grain (from Canada) is unloaded and covered with pigeons and their droppings.  When I asked about the health effects of this I was told "that's not important, we're shipping it all to the Bolivians". Click to see big picture (640x434 pixels; 73 KB)