Friday, January 9, 2009

Struggling with disastrous storms in Brazil -- and the need to adapt

IPS: Torrential rains have deluged several Brazilian states since November, causing nearly 200 deaths so far and reinforcing environmentalist campaigns calling for urgent climate change adaptation measures.

…"Let's hope they pay more attention to us after these disasters," Edir de Souza, preventive action manager at the Santa Catarina state Civil Defence Department, told IPS. He was referring to the need for an urban planning law to regulate what can be built, and where, in different city zones.

"If only they had listened to us, there would have been less damage," de Souza said. The landslides, torrents of water and floods caused more fatalities in sections of the city built on slopes and areas susceptible to flooding, and these could have been avoided, he said. His hope is that climate change and the rise in extreme weather phenomena will "raise the voice and the authority of civil defence bodies," which by law should exist in each of Brazil's 5,563 municipalities but have not yet been created in nearly one-quarter of them.

...The recent events show that Brazil is "highly vulnerable" to natural disasters, whether or not they are caused by climate change, environmentalist Roberto Smeraldi, the head of Friends of the Earth-Brazilian Amazon, told IPS. This vulnerability, added to regional and global climate change, intensifies the consequences of extreme weather conditions and "exponentially increases the probability of disasters," which are "socially unjust" because they affect mainly the poor, Smeraldi said….

An 1868 photo of the Minas Gerais in Brazil

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