Rivers in the heart of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest fell to their lowest levels in more than a century on Monday, as a record drought disrupts the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and damages the rainforest ecosystem.
The port of Manaus, the most populated city in the region, at the confluence of the Negro River and the Amazon River, recorded 13.59 meters of water on Monday, compared to 17.60 a year ago, according to its website. This is the lowest level since records began 121 years ago in 1902, surpassing a previous record low set in 2010.
Rapidly drying tributaries of the mighty Amazon have left ships stranded, cutting off food and water supplies to remote villages, while high water temperatures are suspected of killing more than 100 endangered river dolphins.
After months without rain, Pedro Mendonca, a rainforest villager, was relieved when a Brazilian NGO delivered supplies to his riverside community near Manaus late last week.
“We haven’t had any rain here in our community for three months,” said Mendonca, who lives in Santa Helena do Inglés, west of Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state. “It’s much warmer than past droughts.”
Some areas of the Amazon have seen the lowest July-September rain since 1980, according to the Brazilian government’s disaster warning center, Cemaden.
Brazil’s Science Ministry attributes the drought to the emergence of the El Niño climate phenomenon this year, which is driving extreme weather patterns globally. In a statement earlier this month, the ministry said it expects the drought to last at least until December, when the effects of El Niño are forecast to peak.
Behind El Niño is the long-term trend of global warming, which is causing more frequent and intense extreme weather events, such as droughts and heat.
The drought has affected 481,000 people as of Monday, according to the civil defense agency of the state of Amazonas, where Manaus is located.
Late last week, workers from the Brazilian NGO Fundação Amazônia Sustentável fanned out across the arid region near Manaus to deliver food and supplies to vulnerable villages. The drought has threatened their access to food, drinking water and medicine, which are normally transported by river.
Nelson Mendonca, a community leader in Santa Helena do Inglés, said some areas can still be reached by canoe, but many boats have not been able to carry supplies along the river, so most products arrive by tractor or by boat. foot.
“It’s not very good for us because we are practically isolated,” he said.
Luciana Valentin, who also lives in Santa Helena do Inglés, said she is concerned about the cleanliness of the local water supply after the drought reduced water levels.
“Our children have diarrhea, vomiting and often fever from the water,” he said.