The level of the Solimões River in Tabatinga, state of Amazonas, on the Brazilian border with Peru and Colombia, has already begun to rise, but it will be 15 days before the city’s port resumes operations.
The information comes from Jaime Azevedo da Silva, a cargo checker for the Amazonas Navigation, Ports, and Waterways Company (SNPH). He is one of the 302 people who make daily measurements of river levels in the Amazon basin.
Every three months the data are collated and tabulated by technical personnel in the Hydrology Department of the Brazilian Geological Service (still identified by the acronym CPRM, after its predecessor, the Mineral Resources Research Company).
"The river rose 0.31 centimeters between Monday and Tuesday. But the depth was still 1.91 meters, around 5 meters below what is normal for this time of year," he said.
Izidoro de Araújo Maquini is a maritime and fluvial dispatcher and handles jobs for a firm in Iquitos, Peru. He phones there every day for information about the level of the Marañon River (the name of the Solimões River in its headwaters in Peru, where it is fed by the Andes thaw).
"The level of the Marañon River has been rising about 5 centimeters each day for the past 12 days," he reported.
On September 16, the Tabatinga municipal administration had to close the city’s floating port, which wound up on dry land. From the port area it is possible to see the gully that is currently serving as an anchorage. When it rains, according to da Silva, the mud makes it nearly impossible to load merchandise on the boats.
Nevertheless, some people continue to fish in the Solimões River, which more nearly resembles a large lake. Josué Gomes do Nascimento, who paints cars for a living, catches curimatãs, a small regional fish that costs US$ 2.22 (5 reais) per kilogram in local markets.
"With the drought, it is easier to fish here. I catch these fish to eat, so we can save money."
Tabatinga is one of the 61 Amazonas municipalities where a state of public disaster has been declared, in consequence of the severe, prolonged drought affecting the state.