The mangroves are a rich source of life. Also, they develop important tasks that facilitate to maintain the natural balance. Mangroves help to control floods, to stabilize microclimate, to stop erosion, to give stability to the coastline, to retain sediment and toxic substances purifying water that reaches the sea and, at the sametime, they help to desalinate water when is coming into land. These forests are the largest source of organic matter in the world and at the same time, they work as a shield or windbreak for protection during storms. Mangroves act as breeding species for different fishes and shellfish. Also, they serve as home for great variety of birds and other sea organisms. Finally, they act as lungs of theenvironment and are very valuable for scientific research.
One of the most important mangroves in the Caribbean coast is “The Swamp of the Virgin”. It is not only an ecological route or a place to visit. The swamp is the lung of Cartagena. With an area of 32,000 hectares, it is one of the most important natural parks of Colombia. In it lives a huge variety of birds like Martín Pescador, GarzaBlanca, Garza Nocturna, Garza Azul, Espatula Rosada, Pelicanos and Aguila Pescadora, among many others, and an important variety of hummingbirds, iguanas, crustaceans and molluscs.
Currently, mangrove forests are one of the most threatened habitats trough the world and they are dying in an accelerated way.
THE SWAMP OF THE VIRGIN
The Swamp of the Virgin is a coastal lagoon located at north ofthe city of Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. Daily, it receives about 60% of the sewage spills from Cartagena, without any pre-treatment. Due growing of population, to a current level of 750,000, the natural swamp self-regeneration ability, it is no longer enough to absorb all of the sewage discharged that fall into it.
As a result, the present quality of water in the Swamp of the Virgin hasdeteriorated to worrying levels. This affects directly an estimated of 300,000 people, from in the medium and low social stratum in the city. Also, it affects the habitat of several species that live there and the tourist potential of the city of Cartagena, which is recognized as one of the universal cultural heritages of the world.
CURRENT SITUATION OF THE SWAMP
The fishermen of the “LaBoquilla”, a very popular area surrounding the swamp, ran out fish. The Swamp of the Virgin, formerly named “the marine pantry of Cartagena”, now it is dying by pollution. However, fishermen continue exploring its water daily, hopeful someday to replenish their boats with meros, pargos, mojarras and róbalos, as in memorable years.
During those days, there were areas, as the island Hondo, which had more thantwo meters deep, but today there is no more than one meter deep. Before the “Via del Mar”, fishermen could catch Sierras and Caritos, in spite of they are sea fishes.
The plight of this body of water has moved to boquilleros fishermen homes because fishing in open sea has also declined. A fisherman said: "Fishery was finished by industrial fishing vessels which ran their cruisers very close tocoast line, inside protected waters. Twenty years ago a net could catch and pulled up to 400 kg of shrimp in a single haul, today never is more than five kilos.
WHY FISHING WAS REDUCED?
The swamp degrades each day more and more, in front of the passive look and indifference of the same native, many of which have contributed spreading garbage into the water and filling former banks in order tobuild houses to increase the price of their properties to sell these lands to wealthy people who have viewed La Boquilla as a thrive area for construction.
The problem is huge. Indiscriminate felling and devastation of mangroves in different areas of the city, proliferation of fills, manipulated diversion of natural streams during previous years; and the dumping of the 60% of Cartagena´s...