Life in decay


The Grand Cienaga of Santa Marta on Colombia's Caribbean coast is the largest wetland in the country. However, after decades of overfishing, development projects, and the influx of internal refugees of the armed conflict, this unique ecosystem and its surrounding populations are slowly decaying.

The 150 families that make up El Oasis were displaced in 2000 from Trojas de Aracata when paramilitaries massacred 60 civilians accused of being guerrilla sympathisers.

During this time the fishing community moved northeast to the municipality of Cienaga and started to settle on top of the mangroves of the swampland, building their houses of scraps of wood with foundations of sand and trash. The exodus took place over 15 years ago but life for this community is only getting harder as they deal with the wider  socioeconomic issues that face many parts of Colombia today. These include a lack of basic services such as sewage, potable water, health care, and education.

Adding to this, the hauls of the week-long fishing trips are yielding less fish for food and income. The alarming degradation of the Grand Cienaga (Colombia's first Ramsar Wetland site) is largely due to road connecting the cities of Santa Marta and Barranquilla, which has interrupted the natural flow of water between the wetland and the sea necessary for the health of the ecosystem.

This project has been supported by the Colombian Education Fund.