Aerial spraying knows no borders

Ecuador brings international case over aerial spraying
01 September 2005
Policy briefing

In this briefing the Transnational Institute explains why the Colombian government has been unwilling to give ground on this minimal demand, which the Ecuadorians have been making since 2001, shortly after the aerial spraying began as part of Plan Colombia.

ISBN/ISSN
  • 2214-8906

As with drug trafficking, armed conflict, mass displacement of people by armed conflict and in general all of the problems in the border area between Colombia and Ecuador, which have clearly spilled over Colombia's boundaries, aerial spraying also crosses the imaginary line between the two countries. The difference is that while the Colombian government lacks the physical capacity to avoid the spillover of illicit trafficking in drugs, weapons and persons and its effects, it does have the ability to keep glyphosate from reaching the neighbouring country. But it fails to do so.

This reluctance has led the new Ecuadoran government of President Alfredo Palacio to raise the issue of aerial spraying on the border again, in an effort to win the immediate suspension of the spraying and reparation of damage. Aerial spraying of the herbicide Roundup is an important component of the Colombian government's anti-narcotics programme, which is supported by Washington. According to many complaints from residents of the area, the glyphosate affects human health, livestock and crops.

At the urging of various civil humanitarian organizations and government agencies such as the Ombudsman's Office, the Ecuadorans have requested a ban on spraying within 10 kilometres of the border. This is a reasonable request. So why has the Colombian government been unwilling to give ground on this minimal demand, which the Ecuadorians have been making since 2001, shortly after the aerial spraying began as part of Plan Colombia? What is a 10-kilometer band along the border in comparison with the hundreds of thousands of hectares that are sprayed every year in Colombia?

Recommendations

    • The seriousness of the situation on the Colombian-Ecuadoran border merits greater attention from the international community, U.N. humanitarian agencies and other specialised bodies. The Palacio administration needs international support for its request to suspend spraying in the border area to reduce the serious damage it is causing in Ecuadoran territory.
 
  • The aerial spraying programme should also be suspended throughout Colombia and the funds redirected to alternative development programmes that encourage peasant farmers to stop growing coca, as well as to the construction of infrastructure to facilitate the commercialisation of alternative crops.

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