Last Monday, residents of Villa Hayes, a village in southern Paraguay, discovered with ʜᴏʀʀᴏʀ that the river Confuso, which runs through their town, had transformed into a fish graveyard. Our Observer believes that industries upstream have been dumping poisons into the river. In Villa Hayes, Paraguay, Friday the 13th lived up to its bad luck reputation when inhabitants awoke to see thousands of d.e.a.d fish floating belly-up on the Confuso river. They turned to social media fast to demand that authorities look into these inexplicable d.e.a.t.hs.
Dalila Arce, 25, is a native of Villa Hayes. Arce was among the first to share a series of photographs and videos of the river, which showed scores of d.e.a.d fish floating in brownish water. “We’re finding all various sorts of fish,” she says in one of her films. “There are tanneries upstream of our town that employ a variety of chemicals.” Arce wants the government to address the situation seriously in order to avoid another calamity like this one. On Thursday, October 12, local fishermen noticed that the fish were congregating towards the river’s edge as if ʜᴜɴᴛɪɴɢ for oxygen.
When I returned to the river the next day, the fish were all d.e.a.d, floating belly-up on the surface. Some of the other residents and I instantly began snapping images and publishing them on social media in order to put pressure on the authorities to act. It was effective. The next day, municipal authorities arrived at the river, accompanied by SEAM [Editor’s note: the Paraguayan Secretariat of the Environment] personnel. It’s not the first time we’ve discovered d.e.a.d fish in the water and feared that the water was ᴘᴏɪsᴏɴᴇᴅ. But we’ve never seen anything like this before.
We’ve witnessed thousands of d.e.a.d fish in the last two days. Some of them are almost certainly dumping discarded chemical goods into the river. I assume tanneries are involved because they use a variety of treatments to treat animal hide and transform it into leather [Editor’s note: To manufacture leather, the animal hide is first washed with strong additives, then cleansed, scrubbed, and colored]. We believe that the municipality is not appropriately regulating these firms. This pollution has undoubtedly had an impact on the surrounding population.
Some fishermen who work in this region have had to suspend their operations. Families who rely on water from the Confuso River to irrigate their crops and cattle are also in a difficult situation. I’ve banded together with a small number of residents to condemn this environmental heinous ᴄʀɪᴍᴇ. We want the government to figure out who is to blame and punish them. We also want the city to have a true environmental policy. I also believe that the factories located upstream should be temporarily shuttered while we investigate the causes of the widespread fᴀᴛᴀʟities of these fish.
The existing scenario has become intolerable. The d.e.a.d fish are rotting due to the heat, and the odor is terrible. The river is in serious need of cleaning. When contacted by FRANCE 24, the Paraguayan Environment Secretariat stated that an inquiry was underway and that certain tests had already been conducted. According to José Silvério, the director of water resources, the fish d.i.e.d owing to a shortage of oxygen in the water.
“We assume that someone unlawfully placed chemicals into the water,” he added, adding that identifying those responsible was impossible for the time being. “It may be one of the industries upstream, but we have to be cautious because it could also be a person or a vehicle that drove up and dropped something into the river,” Silvério told FRANCE 24. “This demonstrates the need of cities collaborating with environmental agencies to reduce ᴅᴀɴɢᴇʀs and ensure that environmental rules are followed.”