Brazilian Scientists Decry Government Response to Drought

Posted in: Drought, Global Water News, Water Crisis
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Photo credit: Latin American Herald Tribune

Article courtesy of Latin American Herald Tribune | February 13, 2015 | Latin American Herald Tribune | Shared as educational materialmaterial

RIO DE JANEIRO – The water supply crisis in southeastern Brazil is the result of both a shortage of rainfall and mismanagement by government, according to members of the country’s academy of science.

Scientists from various fields agreed in a symposium that there needs to be a change in authorities’ mindset if Brazil wants to overcome the current crisis and to avoid similar situations in the future.

“There must be a drastic change in public policy,” academy member Jose Galizia Tundisi said.

Tundisi pointed to flaws in the existing water system, such as a lack of central coordination and leaky pipes, noting that in Belem, capital city of the state of Para, “up to 60 percent of treated water is lost in distribution.”

Officials were also remiss in not implementing conservation measures in time to make a difference, engineer Luis Pinguelli Rosa said.

“We can expect a very difficult year ahead,” he said, adding that steps to handle the situation should include “incentives to reduce consumption.”

Some experts were vehement in their criticism of what they described as a lack of proper communication between decision-makers and the people with technical and scientific knowledge.

“I want them (authorities) to give me instructions,” said Paulo Canedo, chief of the Hydrology Laboratory at the Alberto Luiz Coimbra Institute.

“With rationing, families are obliged to reduce consumption,” Canedo said. “With rationalization, consumption is not reduced. Instead, families are asked to reduce consumption as much as possible.”

“When we talk about water and about heath there is no Plan B,” said Sandra Azevedo, director of the Carlos Chagas Filho Biophysics Institute.

The number of confirmed cases of dengue fever in Brazil soared 57 percent in January and the government said the drought is partly to blame.

Jose Marengo, a researcher at the National Center for Monitoring Natural Disasters, said Brazil “learned nothing” from the 2001 drought, which caused an energy crisis and forced the government to ration electricity.

He said southeastern Brazil would need to receive 50 percent more rain than normal over the next few months to begin to surmount the region’s worst water crisis since 1930.

The southeast comprises Brazil’s wealthiest and most populous states.

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