BOLIVIA: ORURO: TOWN HAS BECOME A CONTAMINATED WASTE GROUND
Date: 09/25/1998 04:00 AM
Oruro, Bolivia - 18 September 1998
1. Zoom out from miner walking to mining factory
2. Various of miner melting minerals
3. Various of polluted water
4. SOUNDBITE: (Spanish) Freddy Ontiveros, Catholic Social Group spokesman
5. Shot of children carrying drinking water
6. Various shots of polluted areas
7. SOUNDBITE: (Spanish) German Revollo, Doctor
8. Various of chimneys and polluted areas
Lax environmental control in Bolivia has reduced the mining town of Oruro, 400 kilometres from the capital La Paz, to a contaminated waste ground.
An estimated 2-thousand and 25 tonnes of sulphur gas are released into the atmosphere every year.
More than 222-thousand people live and work in the area, and medical experts have warned of an impending health disaster if contamination levels are not reduced.
Environmental experts consider the Bolivian city of Oruro to be the most polluted area in the country, and possibly in the whole of Latin America.
Every year more than 2-thousand and 25 tonnes of sulphur gas are released into the atmosphere by the mining industry in Oruro.
Ironically, it is the miners and their families - those who have no alternative but to continue working in dangerous conditions to make a living - who are suffering most.
"The working conditions in most of the mining centres are dangerous for the workers, their children and the population in general."
SUPER CAPTION: Freddy Ontiveros, Catholic Social Group spokesman
Scientists have declared an environmental 'red alert' in the area, and are urging radical pollution controls to be implemented.
Studies have also revealed high levels of acidity in the wells used for drinking water.
More than 30 working mines use this area as a dumping ground for chemical waste.
Scientists have linked the contamination of the mining industry to the drying up of a nearby lake.
Originally, the lake covered an area of 1-thousand- 337 square kilometres.
The lake has now almost completely dried up and the remaining areas of water are steadily disappearing.
But pollution is nothing new to Oruro.
"Oruro has always been one of the most polluted cities in our country. The mining pollution originated from colonial times."
SUPER CAPTION: German Revollo, Doctor
High levels of arsenic were also found in topsoil surrounding the area, with traces of the substance found as far away as five kilometres.
Levels were 40 times higher than the permissible level set by the World Health Organisation.
If the situation is not brought under control promptly, environmentalists fear the long-term damage to the environment and the people will be irreversible.