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Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Drought in Camagüey: Solutions and Perspectives



By Sergio Morales *     

For those who live in the East of Cuba, the changes in the weather and the global heating are more than scientific articles or common phrases used in international forums because their consequences today are the rude reality of an intense drought.

According to the Cuban expert on meteorology Roger Rivero, the current absence of rainfalls is bigger than ever and it is part of a phenomenon that affects Cuba, the Caribbean, Central America and other regions of the world, and it is known as “climatic change.”

This phenomenon, Rivero added, consists on a sustained increase of the average temperatures that has occurred since 1976 in the whole world and associated to it: changes in the atmospheric circulation patterns, that is, in the intensity of the hurricanes and the anticyclones, which affect the rainfalls.

Such a situation prolonged for over seven years has brought about a meteorological and agricultural drought in the largest and flatest province of the Island nation, which affects the agriculture and the water supplies for humans

According to a recent report of the Cuban Institute of Hydraulic Resources, there are 52 reservoirs in this region. These reservoirs have a storage volume of 1 206 million mt3 of water. However, these dams are insufficient since, they hardly accumulated 18,3 per cent of their capacities at the beginning of July and the main water suppliers of the city of Camagüey have collapsed then.

The report reads that, a deficit of rainfalls of about 260 millimeters occurred in the last humid period (May-October 2003) if compared to the historical average. This deficit was the lowest over the last years and from May to June 2004 the rains did not exceed 33 and 64 per cent, respectively.

Of the main dams that provide water to Camagüey, a city with a population of 300 000 inhabitants: the Amistad Cubano Búlgara dam, with a capacity of 137 million m3, descended to what is known as dead volume; Pontezuela is at its 6,3 per cent and Tínima 7,1 per cent.

The President of the Provincial Govern in Camagüey, Jesús García Collazo, explained that such a situation has forced the local authorities, who have already been working to prevent and abate the current crisis, to put into practice a plan of actions intended to tackle the consequences of this meteorological event.

The empowering of new conduits to transport the water from the distant Caonao dam to Pontezuela is one of the actions, the Governor highlights.

Although the neighboring city of Florida takes the water from this reservoir, its situation still allows to maintain a minimum flow of the liquid to the Camagüeyan pipes.

Other measures are the use of dozens of cisterns cars which provide with water some 180 000 people, he added. Likewise, 100 wells for collective use have been dug, and dozens of containers with capacity of 5 000 liters have been set, so that the population can also count with another option.

Before these shortages the saving measures have gone to an extreme, manual bombs are built, workers intensely repair the leakages and numerous industries and institutions that consume large quantities of water have been separated from the main pipe.

Not less serious, García Collazo indicated, are the consequences of the drought for the agriculture and the cattle raising, the territory’s main economic resources.

The losses in the crops, the delay in the seeding season, the decrease of the yields, the impossibility of using the irrigation and other affectations, cause big losses.

Roger Rivero points out that the trend is toward a drier and warmer climate since many global models predict this for Cuba, the Caribbean and Central America, this phenomenon will intensify and the temperature will augment while the rains will plummet and redistribute.

Three decades ago there were two seasons in Cuba, the dry season (November-April) and the rainy season (May-October). In May and June it rained practically the same than in September and October, but the climate models are predicting that the rainfalls in those first months will diminish and that deficit will not be compensated with an increment in the last ones.

Many residents here, for paradoxical that it seems, are longing for the coming of a hurricane even when this radical solution brings countless destruction.

Nevertheless, García Collazo expressed his trust in the capacity of the Camagueyans to face the current drought and its possible escalation, when assured, there are important projects in march pursuing such goals plus the will, the intelligence and the unit of the Cuban people.

*The author is Prensa Latina correspondent in Camaguey.