We need rain say the people in Bogotá.
We need rain say the people in Santander.
We need rain say the people in Bolivar.
We need water say the people in Mompos.
El Nino is to blame. The outgoing Mayor is to blame. Everyone is responsible. But Mompos has no water save for the few with their own wells tapping into the groundwater.
The Brazo de Mompos River, ordinarily a fast flowing tributary to the Magdalena River is running dry. Playones or mud banks are fast appearing in the centre of the river and travel by any means now seems precarious.
The water situation in Mompos has been delicate for months. Rationing has not been put in place but is now a naturally established phenomenon. Those of us with wells have been pumping up water to gift to other families and homes not as fortunate. My Casa Amarilla runs a hose out into the street to fill up tanks from our well for others.
Motorbikes, the ubiquitous form of transport in town, can now be seen free of passengers, instead now balancing plastic containers and buckets as the drivers today make their living taking water to outlying and dry barrios.
Each container filled with untreated river water costs 5000 pesos. And the cost of the transport is another 1000 pesos.
How and why did this happen?
Mompos was born of the river and as the river gave so shall she take away. Mompos’ decline was brought about by the change in direction of the Magdalena River and indeed by exhaustive cattle farming further to the north. Now, we are asking the same questions.
How could this have been avoided?
Five years ago the banks of the Brazo de Mompos burst, causing more widespread damage (although not as economically disastrous for obvious reasons) than the disaster in New Orleans. Today, we can walk across the river with the muddy swell only reaching as high as your waistline at the deepest parts.
El Nino was always going to affect us. But, there could still be water in our treatment plant and flowing from our taps if we had prepared in time. There are countless engineers, labourers and landowners in Mompos who could have all risen above the politics of this environmental and natural disaster to come to the aid of the people.
But, politics won out.
And the people suffer.
It’s thanks to a chain of events that we find ourselves here.
Administration after administration has done nothing to improve the situation. It’s far too easy to blame the most recent and inept mayor but this dates back to when mayors were unelected officials in Mompos.
You are all to blame.
So, in a combination of events stemming from over farming, over grazing, El Nino, exaggerated increases in the cost of electricity (you are thieves Electrocaribe), the failure of the town’s water company to pay their electricity bills resulting in them having the power shut off at the treatment plant in mid-December, and a lack of political will to plan in advance, Mompos has run dry.
Rain alone in the interior of Colombia cannot solve the water problems.
What will we do when the wells run dry? Who then will be to blame?