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Environmental degradation of the shores of Magdalena (º), by Isidoro Schalamuk

The awakening in the awareness about the environment started at the beginning of the 70´s, in the last century. It was then when people began to percieve clearly, that the economic wellfare, and the results of the development, in the most advanced countries, was accompanied by unwanted effects on the nature.

However, it is important to recognize that even though, in many countries, some actions had been taken, the global environment didn´t improve.

“Despite the vast distancies that separate us geographically, and, our difference of cultures, language, activities, politics and religion a collective danger unprecedent in history is joining us. This danger is of such magnitud that can not be compared with other problems that people has faced so far. Each of them, separately, arises from unsolved problems, but also as a whole, represents not only the likelyhood of a dramatic increase in human suffering in the near future, but even the possibility that life should almost or completely be extinct in the planet”.

Now, almost four decades later, the situation offers no progress, rather, in some regions there are strong environmental damages.

Many politicians and rulers offen accepted the traditional way the big corporation think and raised their actions, after generating great harm to the ecosystem, through negociations which are not always transparent, trying to involve people with offers of symbolic payments to institutions, without accepting the direct responsibility for the environmental and social impacts they generated and without acklowledging the existence of the enourmous damage caused to society.

The damage generated by the company Shell, by the oil spill in the important reserves of fresh water in the Rio de La Plata estuary impacted intensively on coastal areas near the town of Magdalena, polluting oil along 30 kilometers on Buenos Aires shores. The oil spill has caused a serious damage to the coastal ecosystem, affecting the fauna and flora of the region, and also the health of the population. The magnitude of the spill in this riparian zone has no precedent in the country.

Surveys conducted years after the spill, studies and sampling and analysis of water and sediments, demonstrated the persistence of hidrocarbons in wetlands, grasslands and beaches of Magdalena. In the shores, the heavy pollution afects both biotic and abiotic components of the coastal ecosystem. In sediments with high accumulation of oil, high values of heavy metals were determined, including mercury, zinc, lead, and other highly toxic elements that alter the food chain and directly to the people who are in contact with this elements. 

The spill has bring about, in addition to an extensive ecological damage, a drama of social and economic order, in an important sector of Magdalena population. This is a problem difficult to reverse, especially in those sectors of the population that, directly or indirectly depend on the minitourism, trade, construccion industry, the use of reeds, fishing or hunting.  Without considering the effects of hidrocarbons on the health of the population, that affect mediately or inmediately with varying severity.

Dr Marcel Achkar (Report Ala Plastica-15-1-09 based on field work, using remote sensing and GIS, in detailed work, monitored during ten years after the oilspill the vegetation on the coastal strip of Magdalena, and determines that spill and the mitigations processes produced a sharp break in the ecological succession in the affected areas. This report concluded that the alteration of the system, due to the magnitude of the impact could not be reversed in a period of ten years. This recent report coroborates and shows the effects that remain after the environmental disaster occurred in 1999 on the shores of Magdalena.

Certainly, the pact to be agreed between Shell and local authorities, with the promise of a small amount in USS dollars for the Municipality of Magdalena, an amount that would be incorporated to the declined budget. A very thoughtful hook, by the managers of the company for the higher degradation of the environment produced in Argentina. It is hoped that the executive or local government would not commit a serious mistake by accepting a role in the degradation, driven by distorted conception for a miserable “economic benefit”.

If, at the end of a set of actions related with the environmental damage, there is not certainty of punishment of the crimes, all the the society´s effort results in frustration, and the trust between the community and public institutions is lost.

We must not forget that the environment and its components (biodiversity, natural ecosystem, water of rivers and oceans, the athmospheric air, etc.) are a common heritage and do not belong to the current accidental leaders.



                                              Dr. Isidoro B. A. Schalamuk


(º) Doctor in Geology
Emeritus ProfessorUniversity of
La Plata
(UNLP), Argentina
Senior Researcher, CONICET
Former Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Museum of the UNLP (1986-92)
Prize in Geology of theArgentinean  National Academy of Physical and Natural Sciences (1997). (Maximum Prize awarded by the Academy, by discipline, every seven years)
Bernardo Houssay Prize of the Ministry of Science and Technology as Consolidated Researcher in Earth Sciences, Water and Atmosphere. Presidency of the Nation (2003). (Maximum prize awarded by the agency which bears the name of the first Nobel Prize in science in


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3 Responses

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  1. Excellent post. I’m going through some of these issues as well..

  2. Does your website have a contact page? I’m having trouble locating it but, I’d like to shoot you an e-mail. I’ve got some ideas for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great blog and I look forward to seeing it improve over time.

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about food. Regards

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