Sunday, April 21, 2024
HomesustainabilityAmazon drought stalls shipping as boats run aground in low rivers

Amazon drought stalls shipping as boats run aground in low rivers

BRASILIA: The barge carrying three trucks and 2,000 empty cooking gas cylinders lies stranded on the vast sand banks of a diminished Rio Negro river after running aground last month, highlighting the plight of river transport in a region hit by severe drought.

The captain of the boat that tugs the barge, Junior Cesar, said they had come to pick up supplies from Borba, some 280km away on the Madeira River, a tributary of the Amazon that has seen its water levels drop to record lows.

“As we approached, we ran aground and help came too slow to re-float my boat as the water was receding very quickly,” he said in an interview.

The Amazon region is under pressure from the El Niño weather phenomenon, with the volume of rainfall in the northern Amazon below the historical average and river levels falling near record levels.

“On the Madeira, beaches and rocks are appearing that we’ve not seen before,” Cesar said.

The heat wave and drought, linked to the mass deaths of fish and river dolphins, has limited the access to supplies by local communities that depend on rivers transport in the rainforest.

Cesar said store shelves are emptying out in Borba, where his barge delivers food, drinking water, cooking gas, gasoline and building materials.

Brazil’s government in September set up a humanitarian task force to deliver food parcels to isolated villages and Indigenous communities. On Tuesday, Indigenous groups in the Amazon asked the Brazilian government to declare a climate emergency as their villages have no drinking water, food or medicine due to a severe drought.

Officials warn the low river levels could disrupt grains exports from nearby farm states. On the Madeira, they said barge routes used by grain firms such as Cargill, Bunge and Amaggi, are open but loads are being reduced as a precaution.

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