The Amazon region lacks water
The green lung of the planet is in danger. Dryness and heat are particularly difficult for the world’s largest rainforest. The consequences are serious. Because the low water level of the rivers not only threatens the fish.
dThe Amazon basin lacks what it normally has in abundance: water. The world’s most water-rich region is currently experiencing its worst drought since records began more than 120 years ago. The consequences for the people, the regional economy and the flora and fauna of South America are serious. Experts are alarmed. There are no signs of relaxation.
Recently, water levels in some major rivers have dropped to an unprecedented level. The consequences: supply difficulties, dead animals. “There are hundreds of thousands of people in the states who are now suffering from this drought,” says Rômulo Batista, of the environmental organization Greenpeace.
The Brazilian Amazon spans nine states and is the size of Western Europe. It is home to an impressive variety of plants and animals. An estimated one-fifth of Earth’s fresh water flows through the world’s largest and most complex network of rivers.
The state of Amazonas is particularly affected by the current drought. The Negro River, the second largest tributary of the Amazon, reached its lowest level since official measurements began in late October near the provincial capital, Manaus.
According to the Geological Survey of Brazil (SGB), the river’s water level recently reached a minimum of 12.70 meters; The average minimum this month in Manaus is 18 meters, according to geoscientist André Luis Martinelli Real dos Santos of the SGB.
Especially the population living on the banks of the rivers is suffering. Many of them can normally only travel along the rivers by boat. Due to the low water level, numerous ships have run aground and the supply of water, food or medicine to communities is increasingly difficult. The government of the state of Amazonas declared a state of emergency for all 62 districts. Almost 600,000 people are affected. “My husband went fishing and came back with nothing because there were no fish,” says farmer Ana Carla Pereira in a contribution to the Greenpeace organization.
100 freshwater dolphins killed
According to the news portal “G1”, in recent days almost 70 dead freshwater dolphins were found in the municipality of Coari. It is about 360 kilometers from Manaus. At the end of September, more than 100 dead freshwater dolphins were discovered in the same region of Lake Tefé. Although the exact cause of death is still being investigated, it can be assumed to be related to the current heat and drought in the region, the Mamirauá research institute said.
Drought periods are a natural phenomenon, says dos Santos. But what sets this drought apart from others is the speed with which the rivers dried up, says Greenpeace expert Rômulo Batista. “Many places didn’t have time to prepare.”
Currently, the situation is aggravated by El Niño. The weather phenomenon, which occurs every few years, is causing more dryness and heat in northern Brazil, among other places, and will last at least until April next year, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). “Extreme phenomena such as heat waves, droughts, forest fires, heavy rainfall, floods and floods will intensify in some regions and have significant impacts,” warns WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.
The world’s largest rainforest, home to ten percent of all the world’s species, has been threatened for decades: by drought, river pollution, fires and deforestation. Deforestation has decreased since President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva took office at the beginning of the year. But Brazil is still a long way from achieving its stated goal of “zero deforestation.”
In October, the megacity of Manaus was shrouded in thick smoke for days, a result of illegal slash-and-burn agriculture and drought. “In the Amazon, fires are usually related to deforestation. “Wet, well-preserved forests do not simply burn,” explains Mariana Napolitano, from the environmental organization WWF. According to the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe), more than 22,000 fires occurred in October alone, the highest number for this month in the last 15 years.
The interaction of climate change, El Niño and increasing deforestation is causing a negative spiral of worsening droughts and fires, says WWF’s Edegar de Oliveira. Batista, a Greenpeace expert, adds: “We know that those who are suffering the most from the climate crisis are precisely those who have caused the least global warming.”