A withering drought has turned the Amazonian capital of Manaus into a climate dystopia, with the world’s second-worst air quality and rivers at their lowest level in 121 years.
The city of 1 million, surrounded by a forest of trees, is usually bathed under blue skies. Tourists enjoy boating near the Negro and Amazon (locally known as Solims) rivers, where dolphins can often be seen enjoying what are usually some of the world’s most abundant freshwater resources.
But an unusually dry season, exacerbated by El Nio and human-induced global warming, threatens the city’s self-image, the well-being of its residents and the survival prospects of the entire Amazon basin.
The forest capital is shrouded in a murky brown haze reminiscent of China at its most polluted. The normally bustling harbor has been pushed out by dried, trash-strewn mudflats.
So many fires are burning in the surrounding dry forest that air quality monitors recorded 387 micrograms of pollution per cubic meter last week, compared with 122 in Brazil’s economic capital Sao Paulo. The only city in the world that scored worse is the industrial hub of Thailand.
A recent front page of the newspaper A Crtica showed a photo of a drought-stricken port under the headline “Health at risk” and a story about the challenges of securing medicine and basic resources when cargo ships could not navigate the river. Boiling Amazon read the lead story in Cenarium magazine, which noted the unusually high heat and low humidity that had created dangerously dry conditions in the forest.
Drought has affected the territories of Brazil. During the current dry season, 2,770 fires were registered in the state of Amazonas, which was the highest according to local media.
Although years like El Nio expected more droughts and fires than usual, local firefighting services were poorly trained and equipped.
The secretary of Borba city said. If municipalities had even a minimal structure, we could avoid many problems.
Jane Crespo, environmental secretary for the community of Maus, 155 miles (250 km) from Manaus, said: Some communities do not have enough water to put out fires.
Rivers are the only means of access to many parts of the Amazon. As their levels have dropped, some communities have been cut off, raising concerns of a humanitarian disaster. In the rest of the places, navigation is possible only with small boats, which increase the cost of transportation. In Tabatinga, Benjamin Constant and Atalaia do Norte, people complain that the prices of goods are increasing.
Factory production has also been hit by inventory shortages, threatening Manaus’ economy and its reputation as a free trade zone. Authorities in the state of Amazonas have called an emergency meeting to discuss the regional climate crisis and appealed to the federal government for help.
Road industry lobbyists are using the crisis to push demands for a new asphalt road, the controversial BR 319, which would connect Manaus to Porto Velho. Amazon conservationists warn that this would be a disaster for one of the last remaining areas of globally important and intact forest.
The impact on other species is likely to be devastating. As well as the mass die-off of endangered river dolphins, countless other species are likely to die. Noemia Ishikawa, a Manaus-based mycologist, said she noticed an almost complete absence of mushrooms in the fields.
Philip Fearnside, a senior researcher at the National Institute for Amazonian Studies, warned that the rainforest is approaching a point of irreversible decline as dry seasons lengthen, along with more days of extreme heat and rain.
Adding to the risks is a growing human population, which is turning more forests into grasslands that burn regularly. All of the tree deaths from these processes can contribute to a vicious cycle where dead wood left in the forest fuels wildfires that are both more likely to start and spread, and more intense and damaging if. they arise.
Recurring fires can completely destroy a forest. In addition to tipping points in temperature and dry season length, there is also a tipping point associated with forest loss beyond a certain limit that is also believed to be imminent.
Short spells of heavy rain in recent days have raised hopes that the dry season may be over, but meteorologists say it is too early to predict with certainty. However, climate trends make it almost certain that this drought will not be a record for long.
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Image Source : www.theguardian.com