Contaminación en el Río Magdalena

243
Río Magdalena.

Miguel C. Espinosa Ardila

La macrocuenca del Magdalena, con 1.600 km de longitud, y un largo número de cuencas que le tributan agua, es considerada una de las principales arterias fluviales de Colombia. A lo largo de su curso atraviesa 11 departamentos, asentándose más del 70% de la población, contribuyendo a la economía por su navegabilidad en buena parte de su trayecto, sirviendo de abastecimiento de agua para el consumo humano y para la ganadería, agricultura, acuicultura, industria, etc. Pero, sobre todo, es un ecosistema estratégico para la vida, no sólo humana, sino de la biota en general.

A pesar de ello, la actividad humana está ocasionando un impacto negativo, acrecentado durante el último siglo: la tala indiscriminada de árboles genera el deterioro de suelos y un gran aporte sedimentario, que se estima en 200.000 toneladas al año; el vertimiento de aguas residuales domésticas e industriales sin tratamiento o mal tratadas aporta grandes cantidades de metales pesados, materia orgánica, y una multiplicidad de microorganismos; la disposición de residuos sólidos a través de rellenos sanitarios cerca a cuerpos de agua hacen que se lixivien, aportando grandes cantidades de materia orgánica y metales pesados; el aporte de hidrocarburos en los cuerpos de agua producto de los derrames de petróleo, la industria y el comercio fluvial. A todo esto hay que sumar los plaguicidas, fungicidas y herbicidas en los cultivos, los cuales por escorrentía confluyen en los cuerpos de agua que tributan al Magdalena.

Otras actividades contaminantes

Como si fuera poco el panorama, la minería ilegal viene contribuyendo con ingentes cantidades de metales pesados, resaltándose el mercurio, pero también otros como el uranio, como han puesto de presente estudios recientes.

Las afectaciones de la salud

El impacto de todos estos contaminantes en el recurso hídrico tiene implicaciones en los organismos vivos a lo largo de la cadena trófica: desde los productores y filtradores se van acumulando metales pesados y compuestos químicos hasta niveles más altos, los cuales son consumidos por los seres humanos con los consecuentes riesgos a la salud que van desde intoxicación, pasando por enfermedades como el cáncer, hasta mutaciones genéticas. Estas implicaciones han venido reportándose en estudios científicos que dan cuenta de la presencia de mercurio, cadmio, plomo, zinc, níquel, entre otros, en peces por ejemplo, o en productos que tienen contacto directo con el agua del Río Magdalena, como el arroz.

Existen varias formas de medir la contaminación en el recurso hídrico siendo una de ellas el estudio de los sedimentos, que para el caso de los metales pesados es determinante, dado que en el fondo tienden a acumularse. De esta forma, el sedimento sirve de memoria para medir qué tipo de contaminantes se encuentran presentes en el medio acuático, y qué tanto está biodisponible. Por ello queremos resaltar el estudio Perfil toxicológico de los sedimentos del Río Magdalena, de 2016, elaborado por Lesly Tejeda y Jesús Olivero. El trabajo es importante al ser el primero que analiza toxicológicamente a través del C. elegans (un nemátodo o gusano cilíndrico) el sedimento de ese río, lo cual no comentaremos en este momento por razones de espacio.

Las zonas más contaminadas

Los metales analizados son, entre otros, cromo (Cr), cobalto (Co), níquel (Ni), cobre (Cu), zinc (Zn), arsénico (As), cadmio (Cd), mercurio (Hg), plomo (Pb).

El estudio muestra desde el punto de vista de los riesgos ecológicos potenciales de cada metal pesado (Ei) por punto de muestreo que: i) hay un extremado riesgo ecológico de contaminación con cadmio a partir de Puerto Berrío; ii) existe una fuerte riesgo ecológico de contaminación con cadmio en Neiva y Honda, así como de mercurio en Barranquilla; iii) se detecta un moderado riesgo ecológico de contaminación con arsénico a partir de Barrancabermeja, de cadmio a partir de Garzón, y de mercurio en Gamarra, El Banco y Campo de la Cruz. Más alarmante es el Riesgo Ecológico Potencial (RI): i) desde Barrancabermeja hasta Gamarra, del Banco hasta Magangué, y en Barranquilla, la contaminación con metales pesados es extrema; ii) Puerto Berrío, Barranco de Loba, Magangué, Calamar y Campo de la Cruz están muy contaminadas; iii) hay fuerte contaminación en Neiva, Puerto Boyacá y Magangué, mientras que es moderado en Garzón, y desde Natagaima hasta La Dorada. Es, por demás, evidente que la contaminación por los puntos de muestreo están relacionados con una fuerte actividad industrial; las actividades ligadas a la industria y el comercio petrolero; los vertimientos de aguas residuales industriales y domésticas sin tratamiento; minería ilegal, etc.

Estos contaminantes representan un peligro para la biota y la vida humana, y mucho más si se tiene en cuenta que un centenar de municipios que a lo largo de la macrocuenca del Magdalena-Cauca no tienen un sistema de potabilización del agua recogida de estos cuerpos de agua. Así mismo, los organismos acuáticos están bioacumulando estos metales pesados, llegando a los seres humanos a través de especies de interés comercial. Tampoco hay que olvidar que el agua del Río Magdalena sirve para el riego de cultivos, por lo que en esos puntos contaminados deben estar bioacumulándose los metales pesados en los productos agropecuarios, con los consecuentes riesgos a la salud humana por su consumo. Por ello, la contaminación ambiental en Colombia debe tener especial atención por parte de los sectores progresistas porque es la vida, incluyendo la humana, la que está en peligro.

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