The Amazonian metropolis of Manaus has been hit hard by a severe drought, and as a result, the city’s air quality is now ranked as the second worst in the entire world. Additionally, river levels are at their lowest point in 121 years.
The city, which has a population of one million people and is encircled by a forest of trees, typically basks beneath clear blue skies. Dolphins can frequently be seen enjoying what are typically the most plentiful freshwater resources in the world at the close meeting of the Negro and Amazon rivers, which is referred to by the locals as the Solimes. Tourists take pleasure boats to go to this location.
The city’s self-image, the wellbeing of its citizens, and the survival chances for the entire Amazon basin are all in jeopardy as a result of an abnormally dry season that has been made even worse by an El Nio and global warming that has been caused by humans.
The city that is known as the capital of forests is currently shrouded in a murky brown cloud that is reminiscent of China at its most polluted phase. The normally bustling port has been forced far out onto the mud flats that have dried up and become littered with trash.
There are so many fires blazing in the surrounding tinder-dry forest that air-quality monitors measured 387 micrograms of pollution a cubic meter last week. This is in comparison to 122 micrograms of pollution a cubic meter in Sao Paulo, which is the economic hub of Brazil. One of the most important industrial hubs in Thailand was the only city in the entire globe to score lower.
A recent front page of the newspaper A Crtica included a photograph of the drought-stricken port with the heading “Health in peril” and a story about the problems of acquiring medications and essential supplies at a time when goods ships could not navigate the river. The photograph was accompanied by a story about the difficulties of securing medicines and essential resources. The title of the featured story in the most recent issue of Cenarium magazine was “Boiling Amazon.” The article discussed the abnormally high temperatures and low humidity that had led to dangerously dry conditions in the jungle.
Large portions of Brazil have been impacted by the drought. During this year’s dry season, the state of Amazonas reported a total of 2,770 fires, which, according to the local media, was the largest number ever recorded.
Even though El Nio years such as this one were known to be associated with an increased risk of drought and fires, the local firefighting services were unprepared and lacked the necessary equipment.
It was said by the secretary of the municipality of Borba that “if municipalities had even the minimum structure in place, we could have avoided many problems.”
“Some municipalities do not have enough water to put out the fires,” said Jane Crespo, the environmental secretary of Maués, a community that is around 250 kilometers (155 miles) from Manaus. Maués is located in Brazil.
In many areas of the Amazon, rivers are the only way to get to other regions of the rainforest. Some villages have been shut off as a result of their levels falling, which has raised fears about the possibility of a humanitarian tragedy. Everywhere else, the only way to navigate is with a relatively tiny boat, which drives up the cost of transportation. People in Tabatinga, Benjamin Constant, and Atalaia do Norte are dissatisfied with the fact that the cost of things is continually rising.
The scarcity of supplies has also had an adverse effect on factory production, which poses a danger to the economy of Manaus and its status as a free-trade zone. Authorities from the state of Amazonas have convened an emergency meeting to discuss the climate disaster in the surrounding region and have made a request for assistance to the federal government.
Lobbyists for the road business are taking advantage of the crisis to increase pressure for the construction of a new paved road, the contentious BR 319, that would connect Manaus and Porto Velho. Conservationists in the Amazon warn that if this were to happen, it would be catastrophic for one of the few remaining sections of globally significant and unspoiled forest.
It is very likely that this will have a catastrophic effect on other species. There is a high probability that extinction rates are increasing for numerous other species as well, in addition to the critically endangered river dolphins. The mycologist Noemia Ishikawa, who is located in Manaus, reported that she had observed an almost complete lack of mushrooms in the fields.
Dry seasons are getting longer, which means there will be more days of intense heat and no rain. Philip Fearnside, a senior researcher at the National Institute for Amazonian Research, issued a warning that the rainforest is getting closer to a point of deterioration that cannot be reversed.
The expanding human population, which is responsible for the conversion of more land into pasture that is then routinely set ablaze, adds to the dangers. Fearnside stated that all of the tree deaths that can result from these processes can help to kick off a vicious cycle in which the dead wood that is left in the forest serves as fuel for forest fires, making them more likely to start and spread, as well as more severe and harmful if they do occur.
Repeated fires have the potential to eradicate the entire forest. In addition to tipping points regarding temperature and the duration of dry seasons, there is also a tipping point associated with the loss of forest cover beyond a particular limit, which is also regarded to be on the verge of being reached.
The recent occurrence of isolated bouts of rain upriver have given rise to the optimism that the dry season may be coming to an end; nevertheless, meteorologists believe that it is still too early to make such a prediction with any degree of certainty. On the other hand, the way climate is changing makes it virtually inevitable that this drought won’t hold its record for very long.