The serious, prolonged drought that is chastising the state of Amazonas is related to deforestation and burnings, affirms Carlos Rittl, coordinator of the non-governmental organization Greenpeace’s Climate Campaign.
"Fifty percent of the rain formed in the Amazon region depends on the forest. In contact with the forest, rain water evaporates before reaching the ground. Moreover, the trees transpire as well. When you deforest, you interfere with cloud formation," he says.
According to meteorologists from the Amazon Protection System (Sipam), two areas of warming in the Atlantic Ocean are mostly to blame for the drought – by causing it to rain over the ocean, they force cold air masses over the Amazon region, and this movement hinders the formation of clouds over the region.
"This is the global factor, which is related to the greenhouse effect. But there is the local factor, which is the burnings and deforestation. The smoke from the burnings itself changes the composition of the clouds," Rittl contends.
He points out that 75% of the gas emissions responsible for the greenhouse effect in Brazil come from burnings and deforestation. "This is our contribution to global warming. The higher temperatures increase the thawing of the Andean rivers that feed the Amazon Basin.
"But they also cause the warming of the Atlantic Ocean, which interferes with the rains. The flow of waters from the thaw don’t compensate for the lack of rain. Besides this, for the channels and lakes, the rains are the chief source of water."
The banks of these channels (small tributaries) and lakes are home to the 32 thousand families that are currently cut off, according to a survey by the State Civil Defense agency. A Greenpeace team flew over the principal municipalities that are suffering from the drought and drove through others by car.
"There are rivers and lakes in which the water level is 80% below normal. We crossed some lakebeds that have become tiny streams. Dead fish cluttered the shores. This contaminates the remaining water and endangers the population’s water supply."
Over the past 35 years, according to a note from Greenpeace, the Brazilian Amazon has lost nearly 17% of its forest cover, due mainly to the expansion of farming and ranching and the illegal extraction of timber.
For Greenpeace, "Brazil needs to establish urgent, concrete targets for the reduction of deforestation and, consequently, greenhouse gas emissions, if it wants to prevent the perverse consequences of global warming."
Moreover, the organization calls on the country to lead "the efforts by governments from all over the world, at the coming meeting of the Biodiversity Convention (CBD), in March, 2006, to establish a network of protected areas set aside for the preservation of biological diversity, traditional communities, and their culture."