Just months after enduring floods that destroyed crops and submerged communities, thousands of families in the Brazilian Amazon are now dealing with drought that in some areas is the worst in decades.
The low level of the Amazon River, which is the heart of the world’s largest drainage system, has put dozens of municipalities on alert.
The quickly decreasing water levels are due to lower-than-expected rainfall during August and September, according to Luna Gripp, a geosciences researcher who monitors the western Amazon’s river levels for the Brazilian Geological Survey.
In the Sao Estevao community, fishermen have postponed catching pirarucu, the Amazon’s largest fish, because the boat to transport their catch to the city cannot dock.
The legal fishing season runs until the end of November. If the water level doesn’t rise soon, the seven-family community will lose a significant source of income, fisherman Pedro Canizio da Silva told The Associated Press.
About six months ago, the community suffered losses due to a heavier-than-expected flood season.
“I lost my crops of banana and yuca,” Canizio said. “Moreover, caymans and anacondas got closer to us due to the flood and ate some of my ducks and chickens. The water underneath my stilted house almost reached the floor.”
In the Porto Praia Indigenous community, the nearby branch of the Amazon River has become a vast swathe of sand that during the day becomes too hot to walk across. A motorboat trip to Tefe, normally 90 minutes long, now takes four hours, Anilton Braz, a local leader, told AP, because the water is so shallow in some stretches that it is necessary to paddle instead of using the motor.
The local source of water has become muddy and there is no other water to drink. “We fear our children will get sick with diarrhoea and other diseases,” Braz said.
The situation has led Tefe’s City Hall to declare a state of emergency to speed aid to families, but so far, there’s been little help. “The mayor sent a little bit of food,” Braz said.
The local civil defence authority said 53 out of 62 municipalities in Amazonas state have been affected by floods and drought this year. The drier season, known locally as the “Amazonian summer”, usually lasts from June to December in this part of the rainforest.