Communities that depend on the waterways of the Amazon jungle are stranded without access to fuel, food, or clean water. Numerous river dolphins died and washed up on the beach. On the water’s surface, thousands of dead fish float.
These are but the first somber predictions of the catastrophic drought engulfing Brazil’s Amazon. Numerous thousands of people and animals have been impacted by the unusually low water levels, and as the drought is expected to extend until early 2024, further issues are likely to arise.
The 67-year-old fisherman Raimundo Silva do Carmo has recently had difficulty in finding water. Do Carmo often collects water untreated from the biome’s numerous streams, like the majority of rural Amazonians.
He was filling a plastic bucket from a well he had dug into the cratered lake bed of Lake Puraquequara, just east of the Amazonas state capital Manaus, on his fourth trip of the day on Thursday morning.
It’s miserable job, made worse by the heat of the sun, do Carmo told The Associated Press. “We drink the water, bathe in it, and cook with it. Water is necessary for life.
This drought is the worst he can remember, according to 73-year-old ship carpenter Joaquim Mendes da Silva, who has lived near the same lake for 43 years. Children in the area stopped attending to school a month ago since using the river to get there was no longer an option.
According to CEMADEN, Brazil’s disaster warning agency, eight Brazilian states saw its driest summer and fall in more than 40 years. The majority of the major rivers in the Amazon Basin, the largest basin in the world and the source of 20% of the world’s fresh water, have been impacted by the drought.
Additionally, 42 out of Amazonas’ 62 municipalities had declared a state of emergency as of Friday. Approximately 250,000 people have been impacted by the drought thus far, and the state’s civil defense administration predicts that number might treble by year’s end.
Over 300 riverine people are having a difficult time getting food and other supplies in the Auati-Parana Extractive Reserve, which is located about 450 miles west of Lake Puraquequara.
The voyage to the closest city can only be completed in small boats with decreased cargo, and choosing a path across shallow water has increased travel time from nine hours to fourteen. Additionally, the canals to the lakes where they catch pirarucu, the largest fish in the Amazon and their main source of revenue, have dried up, making it incredibly difficult to move fish that may weigh up to 200 kilograms (approximately 440 pounds) along pathways.
We run the chance of catching fish in the lake that is spoilt when it is delivered. Thus, we have no method to fish, according to the local association’s president, Edvaldo de Lira.
The cyclical weather pattern of the Amazon includes dry periods, with less rain falling in the majority of the jungle from May to October.
Two climatic phenomena, El Nio, the natural warming of surface waters in the Equatorial Pacific region, and the warming of northern tropical Atlantic Ocean waters, are further reducing that already low rainfall this year, according to Ana Paula Cunha, a CEMADEN researcher.
These enhanced events are taking place against the backdrop of global warming caused by the use of fossil fuels. Extreme weather is more likely as temperatures rise, yet it can be difficult to attribute certain incidents to climate change and requires extensive research. However, experts warn that the drought and its disastrous repercussions could be a sign of things to come as global temperatures increase and the effects of climate change worsen.
In September, the average global temperature rose to a record high. Even though it was winter, Brazil experienced crushing heat waves during the past few months. Devastating floods in its southern state of Rio Grande do Sul claimed scores of lives.
According to Marcus Suassuna Santos, a researcher with the Geological Survey of Brazil, droughts have increased in frequency along the Madeira River in the Amazon, whose basin stretches over 2,000 miles from Bolivia to Brazil. Four of the five lowest river levels in the past four years have been recorded there.
The level of the Madeira near Porto Velho is at its lowest point since measurements started in 1967. Due to a scarcity of water, activities at Santo Antonio Plant, Brazil’s fourth-largest hydroelectric dam, were suspended this week. Since it opened in 2012, it has never happened before.
A separate pattern has formed in the Negro River basin further north. Seven of the 11 years’ biggest floods occurred in the major tributary of the Amazon, with the worst being in 2021. However, this year will likely see the lowest water levels ever for the Negro River.
“A scenario of a changed climate that oscillates between extreme events, such as drought or huge rainfall, is one that we are already experiencing. Ane Alencar, science director for the Amazon Environmental Research Institute, or IPAM, a nonprofit, stated that this has very negative effects on people, the economy, and the ecosystem.
Alencar continued, “I think there is a very high likelihood that the oscillation we are experiencing right now is the new normal.
A task team has been established by the Brazilian government to plan a response. On Tuesday, representatives of the administration of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva traveled to Manaus. Vice President Geraldo Alckmin offered remote villages food, clean water, and fuel while announcing that Bolsa Familia welfare program payments will be given in advance. To increase navigability, parts of the Solimoes and Madeira rivers are being dug up.
More than 140 dolphins died at Lake Tefe, about 300 miles east of Manaus, and it is believed that heat and plummeting rivers were to blame. Images of vultures nibbling at the dolphins’ beached carcasses also made international news.
According to hydrologist Ayan Fleischmann of the Mamiraua Sustainable Development Institute, excessive heat may have led to organ failure.
Bacteria is a different theory, with unusually warm waters serving as an extra stressor.
“This tragedy is unprecedented. Nobody had ever seen anything like it in this area, said Fleischmann. “Everyone was shocked by it.”
The National Institute for Space Research predicts that rainfall will be below average until the end of the year. Beyond the Amazon’s waterways and into the jungle, the effects of the drought are already being felt.
According to Flávia Costa, a researcher at the National Institute of Amazonian Research, areas of forest near riverbanks collect a heavy layer of leaf litter, making them particularly vulnerable to wildfire.
The second-highest number of fires for a month since satellite monitoring started in 1998, approximately 7,000 fires were documented in the state of Amazonas in only September alone.
More than 2 million people live in Manaus, where the ensuing smoke is suffocating them while also making the city unbearably hot. The city saw the warmest Sunday since reliable records have been kept since 1910.
The necessity for coordination between the federal, regional, and municipal governments to plan and develop a system of alerts to mitigate effects is heightened by the rising frequency of extreme weather events.
Alencar declared that things would get worse moving forward.