By Natalia Ramos
26 November 2014
(AFP News) – He cast his rod happily here for 30 years -- but where a river once teemed with fish, Brazilian fisherman Ernane da Silva these days stares out over a valley of weeds and bone dry, sun-parched land.
The southeastern state of São Paulo is suffering its worst drought in 80 years with scores of towns sounding the alarm, blaming increasing deforestation, unseasonably high temperatures and creeping urbanization.
"I was one of the first fishermen to arrive here and today I am one of the last still here," says Da Silva, 60, standing by the Jacarei dam 110 kilometers (70 miles) outside São Paulo.
"I have been fishing here for 30 years. How could I ever have imagined there would one day be no more water?" he asks incredulously.
The problem of severe drought affects millions of inhabitants of Brazil's most populous and developed region.
Sporting a cap against the blazing sun, Da Silva says he has abandoned his home by the banks of the Jacarei River, part of São Paulo's Cantareira system of five dams built in the 1970s supplying water to 45 percent of the metropolitan region of 20 million people.
This year has forced him to fish further upriver where water levels are higher.
But he has no idea if that will be possible next year with water levels having already hit an historic low.
October to March rainfall in the area was insufficient and in November dropped to 90 millimeters, well short of the average 161.2 millimeters.
"The lack of rainfall was especially severe this year, accompanied by high temperatures in winter as well as in summer, speeding up evaporation of the dams," meteorologist Marcelo Schneider told AFP.
"Unlike previous droughts, both the population and demand for water were higher." […]
Some experts blame an upturn in deforestation as a key factor behind the drought.
"The exceptional drought that southeastern Brazil, especially São Paulo, is suffering could be the result of the destruction of Amazonia," says Antonio Donato Nobre, a researcher with Brazil' National Institute of Space Research (INPE).
"Amazonia exports humidity and brings rain to the southeast, the center-west and south of Brazil but also other regions of Bolivia, Paraguay, and Argentina across thousands of kilometers," Nobre told AFP.
Anicia Pio, of the São Paulo Federation of Industry (FIESP), says "the region is facing its worst-ever crisis. This year the rainfall levels are well down on those of last year which were already critical. [more]