Thursday, September 15, 2011

Beating drought in Brazil's semiarid Northeast

Mario Osava in IPS: ...Repeated climate-related tragedies in the Northeast, Brazil's poorest region, and the failure of public works policies aimed at combating drought, such as the construction of dams, roads and irrigation systems, made the search for new solutions urgent.... Articulação no Semi-Árido Brasileiro (ASA), a network of over 700 NGOs, labour unions and community and religious institutions focused on Brazil's semiarid region, adopted the goal of finding a way to "coexist" with the semiarid environment, by building rainwater tanks and finding other ways of storing rainwater on small family farms and community institutions like schools.

For its part, the government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2011) launched a massive project in the name of fighting drought, in 2007, involving the diversion of water from the São Francisco river, one of the country's largest, which rises in central Brazil. The water diverted from the river would cross over 2,100 km in four of the nine states of the northeast, supplying 30 reservoirs and providing a year-round water flow in rivers that currently run dry during part of the year.

...[T]he situation in the Northeast has already improved. Small farmers and rural workers are no longer so vulnerable to drought, Ferraz said. Although in many areas, last year's drought was worse than the one in 1993, there was no famine and starvation, he pointed out.

He said this is due to the social programmes developed by the Lula administration and continued by the government of Dilma Rousseff, such as Bolsa Familia, which provides assistance to 13 million poor families, half of whom are in the Northeast. And it is also a result of the rainwater storage techniques that are now widely used, Ferraz added. "The hunger has disappeared, it's no longer constant," he said.

As of late July, the One Million Rural Water Tanks Programme (P1MC), launched by ASA in 2003, had benefited 351,140 families with the new system, which collects rainwater from their rooftops in 16,000-litre tanks made of pre-fabricated cement slabs. The water is potable and can be used for drinking and cooking...

Serra Talhada (Pernambuco), Brasil. Rio Pajeú, shot by Patrick, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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