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This image of the Betsiboka River’s estuary in northwest Madagascar provides tantalizing evidence of catastrophic erosion that has been plaguing this small island country in the Indian Ocean for the past fifty years. The bright red color seen in the river’s jellyfish-like tentacles and the sandbars in between is the result of iron-rich sediments that gets washed from the hills during heavy rain and deposited in the river’s mouth. It is estimated that as many as 400 tons of soil per hectare is washed away every year during the rainy season turning the Betsiboka River blood red and leaving deep gorges, known as Lavaka, in the highlands. Astronauts who took this picture remarked that it looks as if Madagascar was “bleeding to death.”

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