Brazil Drought Crisis Leads to Rationing and Tensions
Cracked ground in an area which used to be underwater at the Jaguari dam. The dam is part of the Sao Paulo's Cantareira system of dams. Photograph: Nelson Almeida/AFP/Getty Images
Brazil Drought Crisis Leads to Rationing and Tensions
From his front door to the banks of the Cantareira reservoir, José Christiano da Silva used to stroll only a hundred metres when he first moved to the area in 2009. Today, amid the worst drought in São Paulo's history, he must now trek a kilometre across the dried-up bed before he reaches what's left of the most important water supply for South America's biggest city.
"It's frightening to look at," says the retiree, standing on cracked mud. "In the past, we'd already be under water here." After the driest six months since records began 84 years ago, the volume of the Cantareira system has fallen to 10.7% of its capacity, raising alarms for the nearby urban population of 20 million people and the most important economic hub on the continent.
The drought, affecting Brazil's southeast and central regions, has prompted rationing in 19 cities, undermined hydropower generation, pushed up greenhouse gas emissions and led to squabbles between states vying for dwindling water resources.
Supplies are usually abundant. Brazil has 12% of the world's freshwater and less than 3% of the world population. Apart from the arid northeastern Cerrado, its cities are normally more likely to be plagued with floods than droughts. With big rivers like the Amazon and Paraná, the country generally meets 80% of energy needs with hydropower.
But this year, the rain fronts that are normally carried south from the humid Amazon have largely failed to materialise and temperatures have been higher than usual, prompting the authorities to scrabble to tap new sources and reduce demand. "It has been a terrible year. The last rainy season was drier than the dry season," Mauro Arce, São Paulo's water resources secretary, told the Guardian. "This is a crisis and we are responding with technical measures and the support of consumers."
In São Paulo city, that has meant financial incentives to encourage residents and businesses to reduce consumption, the reduction of water pressure by 75% at night (which in effect means a cut for those – often the poor – living in high areas) and tapping alternative supplies. In neighbouring cities, like Gaurulhos, more draconian measures are in place with some neighbourhoods only able to get water one day in three.
Tensions have emerged between cities, and between those who want water for energy and those who need it for drinking, food and sanitation.
São Paulo has tussled with Rio de Janeiro over the use of the Rio Jaguari, a river that runs across state borders and is used by the latter for hydropower plants and to dilute sewage in the absence of adequate treatment plants. São Paulo, which is downstream, has tapped this river to partially recuperate the Paraiba reservoir system despite the protests of its neighbour and admonitions from the federal government.
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California is not the only place on Earth suffering from the effects of climate destruction and the ensuing jet stream changes due to Arctic ice loss along with increasing ocean temperatures. As I also posted here only several months ago the extreme drought in Colombia as well is also causing an environmental crisis with thousands of wildlife deaths. Deaths that are just as important as human deaths and more so because without them we cannot survive. Yet, we don't see these pictures nor hear these stories on our nightly news. Now nightly fear-mongering with new boogeymen and the posturings of men looking to flex their muscles in a show of elevated testosterone are all we now see. All we see as the Earth that sustains us is withering away...
As I stated previously many times water is the lifeblood of this Earth NOT OIL. Waste and misuse are two main reasons why we see it becoming scarcer (both physical and non physical scarcity) but also due to the amplification of the hydrologic cycle through burning fossil fuels which is leading to atmospheric forcings bringing uneven distribution of rain in areas that once knew it (look at changing monsoon in India) and flooding where it does no good to those areas needing it. As this becomes more frequent and severe we will see more water wars as it takes over as the new oil because people will be HUNGRY. People including myself have been warning others as to the consequences of our continued pushing off of this catastrophe thinking water will last forever. It isn't about the total amount of water on Earth- it is about what we are DOING TO IT to change the distribution and quality of and access to it that is the truly urgent matter.
I try very hard to bring this reality and to explain how dire this situation is over and over again. I think as sentient beings we should care about bringing this truth forward and also doing what we can to conserve and preserve the resources that give us life. However, it is getting harder to do so when you see AGW deniers misinforming simply for political reasons- and also see NGOS and others in the so called "climate movement" spreading hope around like candy as if it isn't as bad as it really is. For example: One group is holding one of their "leader trainings" in Rio in Brazil this fall. A training that trainees have to fly to as they stay in the vacation city in the hotels that actually have water... Just once, how about having "training" in a city truly effected by the CO2 emissions of flying - perhaps in Bosnia or Japan? Have the "trainees" stay in a hotel with no amenities and have to deal with the stench of dead cattle all around them and walk on the cracked dry ground where nothing lives- instead of getting to sit in a cozy conference room swooning over the keynote presenter they will finally get to meet as they try to convince themselves they are part of the solution... I know all about this too because I was once one of them and can tell you- it isn't helping... Not when you see more dire reports and reality showing you that much more is needed.
The only thing that will do any good now is each of us taking it upon ourselves to unplug from the fossil fuel machine and to support massive afforestation/reforestation/sustainable agriculture (especially in urban areas) and put humility before ego in all matters regarding this. Of course, that would also mean overcoming greed, selfishness, hubris, ego, corruption and politics and yes, that might be a bit of an inconvenience for some totally attached to their materialistic and egocentric obsessions... God forbid we suffer a little bit of "inconvenience" to provide a habitable world for those to come eh?...Is there also any hope of vanquishing all of that and having that global moral epiphany on a global scale within the next five years? What do you think?
From where I sit I see not only the fossil fuel industry as culpable in this crime against nature and humanity- but also governments that continue to sit on their hands supporting them and those propping them up for political reasons and giving us false hope instead of real action. The Earth is now dying before our eyes. Sitting around a table trying to prove you are smarter or a hero or to prolong this to ensure the highest profit on your "investments" isn't going to save it or us at this point. Water is becoming more scarce and the poor of this world are the most affected by it. The last thing we need now are the rich on all sides making this only about their political aspirations and "green banks" using the same disaster capitalism that brought this upon us to tell us we can fix this while supporting the very industries exacerbating it!
I cry for the people of these countries who now see all they cherish either being dried up to blow away in the wind or carried away in the flood. I am exasperated because I am a citizen of the world who does care but being poor myself can only use my words and my voice to support them and the way I live to ease my burden on this Earth. I am disillusioned and outraged at governments only giving this lip service and agencies that continue to do nothing but talk without doing anything close to substantial to address this global crisis.
If you search this blog you will see entry after entry about the devastation wrecked upon this world by our folly. So if at this point it has not outraged and moved you to understand what really needs to be done beyond all the PR, conferences, politics and soft sell I have one question: What more do you need to see?
Hope is great but we need TO MOVE. No water= no food= agricultural and economic collapse.
This video is dated 2012-and it hasn't gotten any better.
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