The Choluteca River is Drying Up

Both a blessing and a curse: the Río Choluteca, stems from the Hierba Buena Mountain, near the Lepaterique municipality, a Lenca community, and flows through the northern part of Tegucigalpa, then, southward for a total of 217 miles, and finally, disperses into the Golf of Fonseca and the Pacific Ocean.

A steady source of water throughout its history, essential to both urban and rural inhabitants, the Río Choluteca has been affected by climactic changes such as Hurricane Mitch and the drought, whose occurances are more frequent and prolonged. The climate risk factors are major concerns in Honduras, according to the USAID-supported report.

Climate Change 

Río Choluteca’s drought condition is only a small fraction of a larger, more comprehensive consequence associated with climate change that, unless emergency type of measures are enacted, the country will suffer catastrophic consequences. This phenomenon is reported repeatedly by experts in their field. (See “The Climate Change Risk Profile.”)

The impact of climate change has had a continuous effect in variable degrees on agriculture – the soil and the lives of laboring farmers, the fisheries, especially along the coastlines, as well as everything that is inexorably connected to the ecosystems and the health and well-being of the people. 

Honduras, a little larger than the state of Kentucky, is particularly susceptible to climate change threats, and its large rural population of 50 percent relies heavily on rainfall for their crops. Agriculture exports make up 14 percent of the country’s GPD, yet 65 percent of the rural farmers live in poverty. The population is steadily increasing and patterns of migration increasingly flow from rural to urban areas where settlements are established in unhealthy and hazard-prone areas that, like the communities along Río Choluteca, lack water management and sewerage. 

Honduras is known as one of the poorest country in Latin America; the measures of indices reveal a menacing deficiency in educational attainment, employment and income, accessibility to health and social services, but very high in food insecurity (about 60 percent of children suffer from malnutrition), and violence or crimes committed toward men, women, the elderly, and youth; the homicide and femicide rates are amongst the highest in the world. The sharp, social inequality is particularly notable. Whereas climate change is definitely a factor in the overall threat assessment on the environment and the country as a whole, the political aspect of Honduran life, in the past and present, has played an immensely dominant role on the lives of Hondurans in the current generation and its future.   

The Río Choluteca is Contaminated

The use of pesticides by agribusiness owners such as cotton growers have contributed to abnormally high contamination levels in water sources and surrounding soil. In 1981, researchers who conducted studies in the city of Choluteca in southern Honduras, measured levels of poison in food and water supplies and determined that 10 percent of the residents had cases of intoxication. The contaminants they discovered were derived from dichlorodipheny/trichloroethane or DDT, Dieldrin, Toxaphene, and Parathion. (All of these poisons have been banned and/or highly restricted in the United States and other countries because they have been proven to systematically cause death or serious illnesses among adults and children.) 

There’s a growing concern amongst residents that runoff of pesticides have contaminated water sources and the soil that cultivates the food for human consumption. 

See next article: Cattle Industry in Honduras: Investment for an Elite Few.

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