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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Brazil. The worst drought in almost a century. The country is facing a real water crisis

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Recurring droughts, regular power cuts and a devastated agricultural sector are just a few of the problems Brazilians may face soon. Research in recent months has shown that this rainforest-rich country is starting to dry up at an alarming rate.

The researchers say the causes of droughts in the central-west and south-east of Brazil are factors such as deforestation, global warming and poor management of the forest sector. As a result, farms are extremely dry and hydropower plants have problems meeting their energy needs.

They compared the satellite images

Brazil has lost nearly 16 percent of its surface water in the past three decades, according to a study published in August. Using archival satellite images, scientists identified parts of the country that changed from water to soil or vegetation and vice versa.

“We expected some of the images to show the environmental impact, but we didn’t think they would be so clear and obvious,” said Carlos Souza Jr, a geologist at the Amazon Institute of Human and Environment (Imazon). – This means that we will have less water for basic needs such as industry, energy production and even the daily life of residents – he said.

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Brazil, with 12 percent of the world’s freshwater reserves, has experienced the worst drought in over 90 years, according to national renewable energy operators. Water levels in reservoirs drop most rapidly in the south-eastern regions of the country, home to major cities such as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

Electricity suppliers generally use different colored markers to determine the water level in certain tanks. Green means that the hydropower plants are operating with sufficient capacity, while yellow and red indicate low or critical levels. Now it was necessary to add a new tag which means “water scarcity”. Thanks to it, residents will know in which regions to expect an increase in prices for energy supplies.

Natural disasters in the worldPAP / Adam Ziemienowicz

“Negative feedback loop”

Climate change is already reducing the amount and variety of crops that Brazilian farmers can grow, according to a report in September. Scientists said that increasingly severe weather is adversely affecting growing systems. Due to the lack of regular rainfall, it is difficult to know what and when to plant.

The report predicts that by 2050, Brazil’s net loss of revenue from harvest exports could be anywhere from $ 701 million to $ 2.1 billion per year. Brazilian farmers are now caught in what is known as the “negative feedback loop”. Changing rainfall patterns result in lower yields, and this leads to more deforestation to increase the area of ​​agricultural land. Only that the felling of trees, in turn, reduces rainfall. And so the circle is closed and there is no solution to the problem.

According to the National Institute of Space Research (INPE), more than 10,850 square kilometers of forest area was lost in the Amazon from August 2019 to July 2020. That’s seven percent more than the previous 12 months.

Forests in the Amazon basin play an important role in the “production” of rainfall. Every day, they generate around 20 billion tonnes of water vapor, which then falls down as rain. However, due to climate change, precipitation is delayed. Experts explain that as global temperatures rise, the amount of moisture the atmosphere has to hold increases, which means less is released as precipitation.

The impact of drought on various areas of life (Adam Ziemienowicz / PAP)Adam Ziemienowicz / PAP

Inappropriate water management

Water problems also arise from a lack of environmental management and supervision. The policy pursued by President Jair Bolsonaro has significantly weakened the Ministry of Environment’s power over the forest sector.

According to Angelo Lima, executive secretary of the Water Management Observatory (a network that brings together scientists, public institutions, the private sector and civil society groups), Brazil has not learned from previous water crises, such as the rain shortage in 2001. There was then a paralysis of electricity supplies throughout the country or a severe drought that hit Sao Paulo – the most populated state of Brazil in 2014.

“Brazil’s environmental mismanagement has a direct impact on water and the climate,” said Lima. He has several proposals to solve the water problem from the rulers’ perspective. As he claims, it would be necessary, inter alia, to collect fees from residents and companies for the use of untreated water. In addition, all activities leading to deforestation in Brazil should be completed and invested in the construction of water reservoirs.

How to save water? (PAP / Maria Samczuk)PAP / Maria Samczuk

Main photo source: Shutterstock

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