Why Latin America suffers from severe water shortages

Santa Cruz in Bolivia — Almost 31% of the world’s freshwater supply is in Latin America, dangerous in some areas due to decades of mismanagement, rapid population growth, privatization, and neglected agricultural practices. Withstands a shortage.

There is enough water to meet the needs of the world’s population, but its distribution is unequal. Also, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), there is a lot of waste, pollution or inadequate disposal at the administrative level.

In addition, UNESCO Actual shortage As much freshwater as there is misuse of important resources.

In Puerto Suarez, on the border between Bolivia and Brazil, a man named Benito Luis stares at the green fields of a wetland that was once a lake. He pointed to an old rowing boat that was still tied under the dry dock.

“Our lake is now seasonal,” Lewis told The Epoch Times, recalling a time when commercial fishing opportunities in the town were more than just the rainy season.

Not far away, the cattle ranch is scattered in the landscape as much as you can see. Farmers in the area use unregulated shifting cultivation to clear cattle land. This is due to the growing demand from China for beef exports.

Destructive agricultural practices cause a variety of side effects such as wildfires, soil erosion, water pollution and drought.

Anyway, the Bolivian socialist government approved this method, quadrupling the annual export of beef to China by 2020.

The conversion of water for agriculture and ranch in the Pantanal region, the world’s largest freshwater wetland, has contributed to the growing resource depletion.

Epoch Times Photo
Puerto Suarez dry dock. On December 8, 2021, the lake became seasonal throughout the year. (Autumn Spredemann / The Epoch Times)

Too fast?

Similar problems exist in Mexico City, which was built on everything except Lake Texcoco, which originally disappeared.

In less than 50 years, the city’s population exploded to more than 20 million, prompting drainage of the surrounding lakes and rapidly vacating space. Population growth.

Authorities scrambled to create more land, which made the city overly dependent on water brought in from distant reservoirs and underground.

Currently, more than 30% of what comes out of the faucets in Mexico City comes from distant lakes and rivers. The rest was drawn from the aquifer beneath the big city of the city, which caused a completely different problem.

The city is now sinking to the ground.

Some of the city’s hubs Annual feet, It makes it difficult to maintain a 60-year-old water pipe that supplies the masses.

The Mexican government is spending billions of dollars to manage the tangle of problems, and many residents rely on trucks to carry non-drinking water, which is only suitable for toilets and laundry.

But even truck delivery is unreliable and unguaranteed.

Surprisingly, the city has more annual rainfall than London. Due to the valley, there are also problems with floods during heavy rains.

Such severe contradictions have been blamed head-on for mismanagement of corrupt officials.

“The water crisis is a governance crisis, primarily caused by corruption that is widespread throughout the sector,” said Transparency International.

Mexico City is one of the centers of several major cities in Latin America suffering from an explosive population and water supply decline. Others include Lima (Peru), São Paulo (Brazil), Caracas (Venezuela) and Valparaiso (Chile).

Dario Alvarez, who lives in Lima, told The Epoch Times: All drops are important. “

Green energy creates problems

Argentina, on the other hand, is tackling the problematic combination of dry terrain, population growth and agricultural expansion.

Over 70% of the country is dry or semi-dry, and there is increasing pressure in these areas to use more water for production and consumption.

“Some states had to direct water emergencies to prioritize the use of human consumption,” Argentine engineer Pablo Beresialtua told The Epoch Times.

Beresialtur, director of the Stockholm-based Global Water Partnership, has shown that his country is suffering from the complex factors that affect water scarcity.

Chief during a drought.

Eight of the 23 states across the country are addressing urgent water supply issues, including the famous wine regions Mendoza and Rio Negro in Patagonia’s popular recreation area.

Epoch Times Photo
On December 18, 2015, the Itype hydroelectric dam on the Parana River in Alto Parana on the border between Paraguay and Brazil. (NorbertoDuarte / AFP via Getty Images)

Bereciartua says that a key contributor to dryness is the historically low water level of the Parana River.

An essential resource for the countries of Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia, the Parana River has experienced severe and localized droughts over the past few years.

Interestingly, the drought followed closely with the increase in output from Paraguay’s Itype Dam, which began increasing production in 2016.

The dam is directly on the Parana River.

Earlier this month, Paraguay’s President Abdo Benitez announced that the country’s hydropower project has enabled the country to operate on 100% renewable energy.

Many people have celebrated the achievement of this “green energy”, Some experts We point to megadams as the main causes of drought problems in the region and low water levels in rivers.

A study by Ted Veldkamp of the University of Vrije in Amsterdam on the relationship between water scarcity and dam projects reveals that global water is 23% less after spending $ 2 trillion on global dam initiatives in recent decades. became.

Fight against water

The Chilean Climate Change Conference in Santiago in 2019 was flooded with protesters chanting that “water is a right, not a business, not a privilege.”

The country has one of the most privatized water systems in the world, allowing Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship and the 1981 enactment of private companies to own and manage the country’s vast water resources. It goes back to the water law.

As a result, residents and farmers are now paying for access to the highest water in Latin America, causing a manufacturing crisis.

Rodrigo Mundaka, a farmer and national spokesman for the defense movement for access to water, land and environmental protection, said that “theft is institutionalized” when it comes to valuable resources.

In the midst of recent droughts and scarcity, Chile’s rights to water have been sold to mining and agricultural companies at “millionaire prices,” according to a report on January 15.

Sign reading "Water Yes, Fri No!  ," Seen through a window with a hole in the projectile after a clash between police and protesters of a conga mining project in the Andean town of Celendín in Cajamarca, Peru, on July 5, 2012. In Kahamalka, a total of five civilians were killed and more than 20 were injured after a two-day protest against the conga mining project. Meanwhile, police refused to use guns in crowd management activities in the area.  (STR / AFP / GettyImages)
“Water yes, gold no!” From a window with a hole in the projectile after a deadly clash between police and protesters in the Andean town of Celendín in Cajamarca, Peru, on July 5, 2012. You can see the written sign. Conga mining project. (STR / AFP / GettyImages)

“There is water, but businessmen have it,” said Maria Catalina Espinoza, chairman of the drinking water union.

Bolivian people fought similar privatization efforts in the arid city of Cochabamba in February and April 2000. The government granted consumption and sanitation water rights to an international consortium called Aguas del Tunari last September.

This led to subsequent soaring prices and protests and fierce clashes with local police over access to agriculture in rural areas.

When the news spread, sympathy groups in other regions were quickly organized and protests expanded, leading to the infamous “Cochabamba Water War.”

Eventually, the Bolivian government canceled the contract with Aguas del Tunari and amended the Act on Water Rights and Use No. 2029.

Pollution plays that role

The ecological crisis in the Amazon basin is nothing new. However, 20% of the world’s freshwater can only be found in this region. Cover the area Approximately the size of the continental United States.

Peruvians fight mining companies over the pollution of important waterways where toxic by-products have been dumped.

Much of the pollution comes from gold and oil drilling.

In 2017, a group of indigenous Achuar people crippled seven key areas of operation for oil facilities in Loreto. The demonstrators demanded justice for oil spills into their land and polluted water.

Meanwhile, artisan gold mining continues to be the leading criminal of mercury pollution on the Amazon River as it is used in the extraction process.

Gold mining in this region accounts for 10 percent of the world’s demand.

As a result, various organizations are calling for reduced use of toxic elements to prevent further health hazards.

The World Health Organization classifies mercury as one of the top 10 chemicals that raise major public health concerns.

“Unfortunately, the crisis of mercury pollution in the Amazon is invisible and largely ignored, despite increasing evidence of danger,” he said. Jordi Surkin Director of the Amazon Coordination Unit of the World Wildlife Fund.

Autumn Spredemann


Autumn is a South American-based reporter who focuses primarily on Latin American issues in the Epoch Times.