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Deforestation and climate change increase river flooding in the Southern Cone

Deforestation and climate change increase river flooding in the Southern Cone

This huge river reached the fifth highest level recorded in history this year, due to abundant rains in Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, whose territory it crosses.

The rainfall in recent months has also overflowed the Uruguay and Paraguay rivers. The floods have driven 245,945 people from their homes in Paraguay, the most affected country, according to official data.

"For us it is clear that it is an effect of how the natural wealth of this country is treated," Marianne Hilders, a specialist in water management at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), a non-governmental organization, told EFE.

The Dutch expert highlighted that deforestation reduces infiltration into the soil from rain, which instead runs superficially to the riverbeds.

According to some studies, a forest absorbs four to five times more water than a pasture or a crop, Hilders said.

Between 2000 and 2012 Paraguay lost 9.6% of its forests, the second highest rate in the world after Malaysia, according to a scientific study published in the journal Science last year that is based on an analysis of satellite images.

In total, 37,448 square kilometers of forest mass disappeared in the country in that period.

The flow from Paraguay and Paraná is also influenced by deforestation in the ecosystem known as "closed", in the Brazilian Pantanal, half of whose original vegetation has been destroyed to plant soybeans and other crops, according to a WWF report.

Brazil has toughened its laws against logging in the Amazon, prompting agricultural companies to seek to increase production by cutting down trees in the Cerrado, Hilders said.

In Paraguay, a special concern is the situation in the Chaco, whose soil is sandy, so deforestation makes it vulnerable to erosion, while its recovery after forest loss is slower, Hilders explained.

The Gran Chaco lost 502,308 hectares of forest in 2013 due to the expansion of agricultural and livestock operations, mainly in Paraguay and Argentina, and to a lesser extent in Bolivia, according to the environmental organization Guyra Paraguay, which also based its study on satellite images. .

The other factor at play in floods is global warming, which increases the frequency and intensity of "extreme" weather events, such as rainfall and droughts, according to experts.

According to the Paraguayan Directorate of Meteorology and Hydrology, the Paraguay River remained unusually low for 15 years due to a drought, which allowed the progressive occupation of its banks.

In Asunción, in these low-lying areas, the poor settled, many of them coming from the countryside, who are now mostly refugees in makeshift settlements in streets and squares because their homes are flooded. The displaced number 83,556 in the capital, according to official figures.

"The effect of the floods occurs because we do not give the space that the river needs," Hilders said.

José Luis Ávila, manager of Navigation and Hydrology of the National Administration of Navigation and Ports (ANNP), told Efe today that the level of the Paraguay River is expected to drop in Asunción from next week.

However, meteorologists predict that this decline will be slow and will be interrupted in the rainy season, in the last quarter of the year, which will be increased if the El Niño phenomenon materializes, as experts predict for now.

The rainfall will also increase again the flow of the Paraná, which in mid-June reached a volume of 42,782 cubic meters per second as it passed through the Yacyretá floodgates.

The highest flood on record was 53,230 cubic meters per second in 1905, according to the report released today by the Binational Entity that manages the dam, shared by Paraguay and Argentina.

EFE


Video: Flooding: is it climate change? (June 2021).