The Colombian government said on Tuesday that it asked the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) for help due to an air pollution problem, apparently from the burning of garbage in Venezuela, which since last week has affected the border city of Cúcuta. .
“Yesterday, the National Government requested the support of the Pan American Health Organization so that, through it, the serious concern caused by the deterioration of air quality in the city of Cúcuta is transmitted to Venezuela,” expressed in a statement the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Environment of Colombia.
The information adds that this situation is even more worrying due to “its potential impact on public health and especially, due to the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Since last week, the sky of Cúcuta, a city of about a million inhabitants, has been covered by a cloud of smoke and the wind brings an unbearable smell of burned garbage that, according to the authorities, comes from burning waste in a landfill in the neighboring town of Ureña, in the Venezuelan state of Táchira.
Even residents of other parts of the Norte de Santander department, of which Cúcuta is the capital, have reported unusual air pollution that causes respiratory problems.
“Since Friday, March 27, the Ministries of Environment and Foreign Relations were warned (…) about an anomalous situation with air quality in the city, allegedly caused by burning in the Venezuelan region of Ureña, bordering Colombia” the statement said.
The Colombian Government added that since it became aware of this situation, the Táchira Governorate was contacted, from where “a technical visit was arranged to the Pedro María Ureña garbage dump area in Venezuelan territory, which was carried out on Saturday March 28 “.
“The technical report of this visit shows that burns were carried out at that site, but that for the moment they were already controlled,” added the statement, and although the pollution has decreased in recent days, the inhabitants of Cúcuta continue to report poor quality. from air.
The Colombian Government even offered help to the Táchira Government “for the mitigation of the polluting impact of any activity evidenced on the ground.”
COMMON AND RELATED PROBLEMS
Colombia and Venezuela, which share a land border of 2,219 kilometers, have had no diplomatic relations since February 23, 2019, when they were cut by the Nicolás Maduro regime.
However, the Government also asked for “the support of the Colombian Ombudsman so that, through his good offices, he transmits to his counterpart in Venezuela the concern of the health authorities about the risks that the situation poses to public health in both sides of the border, “added the statement.
Although everything indicates that the pollution comes from the Venezuelan side of the border, the environmental authorities of Norte de Santander are reviewing “other possible sources of emission of polluting particles in Colombian territory to rule out that these are the causes.”
Cúcuta is the main gateway to Colombia for thousands of Venezuelans who leave their country daily in search of food and medicine, a movement restricted since this month by the closure of borders ordered by President Iván Duque to contain the coronavirus epidemic.