Daniel Beltrá, The Amazon Drought, from PRIVATE 45 – Development. An Ecological Question
I am in Seattle, my home for the last 4 years, having a coffee at my favorite spot. While I’m thinking that the photo business has been kind of slow for the last 2 weeks, a short email from Greenpeace changes it all. The Amazon is experiencing one of the most severe droughts in its entire history: large parts of the rainforest are at their driest ever and Greenpeace wants me to document it. I rush home while calling the travel agency. Later, after 30 long hours, I am landing in Manaus Airport. The 99% humidity and temperature of over 100ºF hits you like a wall when the airplane door opens. Soon enough I find myself traveling by inflatable boat on the Amazon River towards Lago Rei, one of the areas that has been most severely affected by this terrible drought. The Rei is usually 12,000 hectares (29,652 acres) of water; it feeds into more than 40 small lakes. But now the Rei is almost dry, that water has been reduced to just 1,000 hectares (2,471) acres. Masses of dead fish are embedded along the shallow margins, contaminating the water and increasing the risk of epidemic diseases.
I am starting to realize the impact the drought is having. Fish is the major source of protein for the population and one of the pillars of the local economy. Future fish stocks will be seriously compromised. According to the Amazonas State Government, about 32,000 community families are isolated in different cities and up to 100,000 families are suffering deeply, as it is extremely difficult for them to access villages.