I’m David Greene, good morning. We have been reporting a lot on this program about the drought in the United States in places like California and Texas. But this country is not alone in facing a severe water shortage. In Latin America, drought is also wreaking havoc. Here’s NPR’s Lourdes Garcia Navarro reading some of the recent headlines from South America.
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: “The Worst Drought In The Last 30 Years Ignites 47,000 Forest Fires In Bolivia.” “Government Begins Emergency Water Rationing In Venezuela Amid Drought.” Here’s another one – “Colombia Drought Triggers Clashes, Some Communities Say They Haven’t Seen Any Rain For Two Years.” And the final one – “Desperately Seeking Solutions To The Worst Drought In Decades In Brazil.”
GREENE: We had a conversation with Lourdes about the drought in South America and also with NPR’s Carrie Kahn, who has also been reporting across Central America where drought has raised the specter of famine in some places. First, to South America and its most populous city, Sao Paolo, Brazil.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: We’ve had a water shortage for many months now. There are some 20 million people who live here. One of the main reservoirs that supplies nine million people in the Sao Paolo area will go dry in the coming three months, experts say. And that’s affecting restaurants, businesses and we are already seeing water rationing in some areas.
GREENE: And how is that rationing working? Is everyone having to sort of cut back or are certain neighborhoods getting water?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Certainly, we are seeing in some parts of the city formal water rationing. So some days you have water, some days you aren’t. Other parts of the city, they don’t know when the water will come on. They sometimes have to go without water for several days and then all of a sudden, the spigots will open. So it’s been very chaotic and very difficult for many people.
GREENE: Carrie, let’s move north to you, you’re in Mexico City. And following this story from the vantage point there in Central America, is what Lourdes is describing similar to what you’re seeing?
CARRIE KAHN: The drought here out here in Central America’s devastating. Let’s start in the north with Guatemala – the government this month declared a state of emergency in 16 of the 22 provinces. Crop losses, principally the mainstay of the Guatemalan diet which is corn and beans, in some regions are as high as 70 percent – 170,000 families lost almost all their crops. Moving on to El Salvador, the crop losses there are as high as 60 percent. In Nicaragua, thousands of cattle have died. And the price of, like, corns and beans – beans particularly have quadrupled just since May. And in Honduras, the government is distributing food and vitamin supplements. The drought has extended down to Panama too. And if it continues much longer, it will affect shipping through the Canal. This month, the Canal Authority said due to the lower levels in Panamanian lakes that feed the locks, they may have to restrict ship traffic. And most probably what that means is that the ships will have to lighten their loads so they don’t require as much water to go to through the locks. But canal fees won’t go down, so experts say we might see price hikes in consumer goods in the U.S. by late this year or early next year.