Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Flood risks in Venezuela increased by “new rains” linked to climate change

Humberto Marquez in IPS: “The river is reclaiming its place, the water has risen up to here,” says Ana Polanco, crouching down to hold her hand high above her head in the little tin house she shares with her children in El Hueco, one of the communities on the east side of the Venezuelan capital besieged by the polluted and deceptively calm Guaire River. Stretching a total of 72 kilometres, the Guaire crosses Caracas from west to east in an almost straight line, but as it leaves the city, it begins to snake along a series of hairpin curves. For the past quarter of a century, the flooding of this section of the river has wreaked havoc in neighbouring communities such as La Jóvita, La Línea and El Hueco, which sits at the bottom of a hill carpeted with precarious housing.

Residents and local governments are making preparations to confront the dreaded “new rains”, which cause landslides that block the channels and ravines that would otherwise help to drain the swollen river. Further aggravating the situation are the tons of liquid and solid waste that flow into the river from homes, businesses and industries in this city of almost five million people.

The “new rains” are “associated with climate change: during most of the 20th century, rains fell little by little, slowly increasing and then diminishing, but now they are short-lived and intense,” explained Nicola Veronico, the manager of environmental affairs at the Metropolitan City Hall of Caracas.  “The same amount of rain that used to fall over the course of weeks or a month can now fall in a single morning. It only takes two hours of torrential rain for the Guaire to overflow,” Gabriel D’Andrea, the director of Civil Protection in the populous Caracas municipality of Sucre, told Tierramérica.

...This change, she added, “is not something that is going to happen in the future. It has been happening since the 1970s, and trends indicate that in the decades to come, the temperature will rise, the water supply will decrease, and rain/drought cycles will be altered. The big challenge is to define adaptation strategies and measures.”...

A 1960 flood in Venezuela, public domain

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