San Andres de Tumaco System Description

Submitted by Sukaina Bharwani | published 25th Mar 2011 | last updated 13th Jan 2020
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San Andres de Tumaco background

San Andres de Tumaco Case Study

The Colombian Pacific basin is nearly 80,000km2 and is located in the western region of the country. San Andres de Tumaco is the second largest city of the Colombian Pacific coast and covers three small islands at the south end of Tumaco Bay: The Viciosa, Tumaco and El Morro. According to the 2005 census (DANE, 2005), urbanization in Tumaco has increased over time with a 6% increase between 1993 and 2005. Population dynamics are difficult to predict in this area due to migration patterns that are influenced by economic and social factors such as drug trafficking, displacements, the supply of public services and others (Tumaco Municipal Development Plan 2002 - 2004).

In 2005, almost 50% of the population in Tumaco had unsatisfied basic needs (NBI) (Census DANE/2005). According to Muñoz (2002), 24.1% of the people in Tumaco and 17.6% of the households in the area are in conditions of misery. The SISBEN classification indicates that 62% of the total population was living in conditions of extreme poverty in 2004. Both the drinking water distribution network and the sewage system in Tumaco are deficient. The water system is over 30 years old and the maintenance is of bad quality. Moreover, more than 35% of the urban population and over 90% of the rural population lacks this service (Muñoz, 2002). As a result, the population mainly consumes water from rivers without proper treatment (POT of Tumaco, 2000). The sewage system is also highly deficient.

The main economic activities in Tumaco are agro-industry, fishing and shrimp cultivation. The production supplies both domestic and international demand. The physical characteristics and geographical location of the port in Tumaco makes it a convenient port for oil export (DNP, 2005). Therefore, Tumaco's main export is palm oil. In 2004, the port registered foreign trade of 39,336,840 tons. Despite not recording imports, the trade displayed a growth of 14% compared to 2003. In the rural area, the main activities for men over 10 years old are agriculture and fishing, while for women the main activity is house labor and mollusk fishing. Generally, agriculture is the main generator of labor in the area.

The temperature in Tumaco ranges from an average high of 33° C to an average low of 18° C. Rainfall is constant throughout the year (annual mean 250cm), with heavy rainfall in the months of April, May, June and January and less rainfall in the months of February, October and November (Alcaldia de Tumaco, 2000). The humidity is relatively high, with measures that lie between 80 and 88%, reaching 100% at night (Alcaldia de Tumaco, 2000; Montagut 2000). Tumaco has rich water resources due to high rainfall and rivers that come from the 5 basins that form Tumaco's inlet (INVEMAR, 2003; Tejada 2003). Rio Rosario has influence over 60% of Tumaco's inlet and is formed by four sub-basins: Caunapi, Alto Rosario, Bajo Rosario and Mejicano. Rio Rosario and Mejicano drain directly into the sea and run through 25.2% of Tumaco's territory (Alcaldia de Tumaco, 2000).

San Andres de Tumaco Case Study

The coastal zone of Tumaco is divided in three zones: a low belt, a flat area and a high area (CCCP, 1998). The 3 to 5km wide low belt is affected by tides. The tide regime in Tumaco is semidiurnal with two high tides and two low tides every 24 hours. The average for high tides is 2.807m and 0.294m for low tides (Tejada 2003). The mid range is 2.513m and the average SLR is 1.530m (IDEAM, 1997 in Tejada, 2003). The inter-tidal zone is divided into inter-tidal platforms without vegetation cover and floodable platforms with vegetation cover. The first areas are where sediments cluster and are completely covered with water during high tides. The second areas are periodically flooded by tide action. They are covered mainly with mangroves and ferns, and other vegetation that can stand halophytic conditions. These areas can also receive sediments from fluvial systems. Adjacent to the low belt described above, is a region that varies from 35 to 45km wide. Bordering this region are higher areas that reach over 500m above sea level.

Most of the beaches in Tumaco are relatively well conserved because they have not faced major human pressures. Beaches in Tumaco can be divided into: 1) ample beaches: over 20m wide, with some vegetation, dunes and littoral cords that are less than 70cm in height; 2) moderate beaches, between 5 and 20m wide; and 3) narrow beaches, less than 5m wide (Tejada 2003). Locations with potential for tourism in the bay of Tumaco are the beaches of Bocagrande, el Morro Island and the Mira River.

Tumaco's forest cover represents 60% of the total territory (Alcaldia de Tumaco, 2000). The ecosystems close to the coastline are formed by tropical rainforests. These rainforests characterized by small temperature variations and high precipitation and humidity, are the most complex ecosystems in terms of structure, stratification and species diversity (IAvH, 1997 in INVEMAR, 2003). In littoral areas the most predominant vegetation is mangroves. Mangrove ecosystems cover 29% of Tumaco's total area and can especially be found in the Guandarajo estuary, in the Mira river estuary, in some areas between cliffs and recent littoral cords on the southern part of Tumaco Island, and on the beaches of Bocagrande, Cabo Manglares, and Ancon's Bay (Alcaldia de Tumaco 2000, Tejada 2003). In general, mangroves have been affected by human settlements, as well as by unsustainable extraction activities, aquaculture (mainly shrimp farming), and tannin production (Sanchez et al. 1997).

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