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 upends the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and damages the jungle ecosystem.
The port of Manaus, the region’s most populous city where the Rio Negro meets the Amazon River, recorded 13.59 meters (44.6 feet) of water on Monday, up from 17.60 a year ago year, according to its website. This is the lowest level since records began 121 years ago in 1902, surpassing a previous all-time low set in 2010.
Rapidly drying tributaries of the mighty Amazon have left boats stranded, cutting off food and water supplies to isolated villages, while high water temperatures are suspected of killing more than 100 river dolphins , a threatened species.
After months without rain, rainforest villager Pedro Mendonca was relieved when a Brazilian NGO delivered supplies to his riverside community near Manaus late last week.
“We have gone three months without rain here in our community,” said Mendonca, who lives in Santa Helena do Ingles, west of Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state. “It’s much warmer than past droughts. »
Some regions of the Amazon experienced the least rain from July to September since 1980, according to the Brazilian government’s disaster warning center, Cemaden.
Brazil’s Science Ministry attributes the drought to the onset of the El Niño weather phenomenon this year, which brings extreme weather events 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 expected to peak.
At the root of El Niño is the long-term trend of global warming, which leads to more frequent and intense extreme weather events, such as drought and heat.
The drought affected 481,000 people on Monday, according to the civil protection agency in Amazonas state, where Manaus is located.
Late last week, workers from the Brazilian NGO Fundação Amazônia Sustentável deployed to the patched-up 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 usually transported by river.
Nelson Mendonca, a community leader in Santa Helena do Ingles, said some areas are still accessible by canoe, but many boats have been unable to transport supplies along the river, so most goods arrive by tractors or on foot.
“It’s not very good for us, because we are practically isolated,” he said.
Luciana Valentin, who also lives in Santa Helena do Ingles, said she was concerned about the cleanliness of the local water supply after drought reduced water levels.
“Our children have diarrhea, vomiting and often have fevers from the water,” she said.