Saturday, 11 June 2011

How to destroy the Land of Grace

I was there. The place really feels like some sort of Paradise, some part of the First Time. No wonder it inspired Doyle's Lost World. Once I was taking some water from a river, the Paují river, and a wonderfully blue humming bird started to fly closer and closer to me. I had to move my head rapidly for it to fly away. It had apparently never seen a human being before. If you have met humming birds before you know how generally shy they are.

This place is close to the Equator, and yet it is not as warm as the surrounding Amazon forest. The reason is that it is located on a huge plateau, the Guyana shield.

This is one of the regions with the highest levels of biodiversity on Earth. If you ever manage to ge to that region, you will soon realise it has some of the most impressive landscapes on Earth.

Well: that place is being destroyed right now. El Paují is a small town to the west of Santa Elena de Wairén, close to the Brazilian border. Pemon Indians and criollos live there. Whereas some people live from tourism, from honey production and from subsistance agriculture, more and more  work in gold extraction. To get the gold they drill holes in the jungle, they change the curse of rivers and they pollute the whole river basins with mercury and other very poisonous chemicals. Because most of them have little education, they sometimes  believe they are doing no harm or if they do believe there is some harm, they think it is only to themselves. They don't see how the mercury destroys life on a long term. They don't have time to follow up the consequences of isolated actions on an ecosystem few really understand. And even if they do realise what they are doing: what else can they do?

Right now there are about 12 "washing machines" along the Paují River.  Each one of those machines gets at least 100 grams of gold a day. 380 Bolívares are paid for every gram right now. Right now nobody wants to work for anything in El Paují but for gold. They are also eager to buy anything visitors bring. And the military, who have several posts around that area, pretend to keep an eye on security and environment protection when in reality they just play along.

If you speak Spanish, you should read Morelia's post on that.
El Pauji google map

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