Water, Water Everywhere Nor Any Drop To Drink

By Fr. Welfredo L. Lañete, SVD

Surrounded by Water

El Banco is a historic town in the province of Magdalena, Colombia. It is surrounded by water yet suffers lack of water. At El Banco is the confluence of two big rivers of Colombia – the Magdalena and the Cesar rivers. To the northeast of El Banco is the big lake called Zapatosa. On the other side is another lake called Chilloa. With this water situation, the majority of the people of El Banco are fisherman and farmers.

Always a Risk

During the dry season, the people plant their crops. They usually plant short-term crops. For them it is a long dry season, for sure all the crops will perish because of the high temperature. If there is a long rainy season, the rivers and lakes overflow and for sure floods make havoc among their crops and the low lying villages.

No Potable Water

In the beginning of this year the dry season created a problem among the villages. Besides the scarcity of water for their crops and animals there was no potable water for them. Everyone was looking for water but there was none. It was a very emotional and heartbreaking situation when in spite of the common effort to dig a deep well still they could not find the solution to their problem.

First Rain

In the middle of May the first drop of water came. The people took the opportunity to plant crops – corn, tubers, beans, and others. Those who planted early harvested enough to sustain their daily needs. They where content with the result. But now came really heavy rain. It lasted for so many days. It was a desperate moment in their life when after having prepared the soil and planted their crops came the flood. Sometimes they think God has forgotten them. They could not understand the way God is treating them. He seems to send his message through natural calamity.

Parish Campaign

Now the situation has become worse. It is not only the crops that are underwater, their houses are, too. The local authority lacks resources to solve this immediate problem. There is no place to evacuate the people or resettle them. Our parish, for its part, made a campaign to help the villagers. We asked for the help of small local businessman and we started to collect relief goods for these suffering people/ we asked the parishioners to donate their used clothes and anything that could be of help to them.

Breakfast in Boat

In his early pastoral visit, we invited our Bishop Ugo Puccini Banfi, a Colombian, to see the place and the situation of the people. It was around nine o’clock in the morning when we reached the place. We met one family taking breakfast in their fishing boat, 25 meters from their house which itself was underwater. It so happened that our new Provincial superior, Fr. Armando Escurel, a Filipino, was with us visiting our local SVD community. Together with the bishop we talked with the people and saw the urgency of helping them.

Indeed we cannot live without water, but neither can we live with too much of it. Water can be a solution and at the same time a problem.