Amazon water levels hit extreme low


According to the Peruvian Navy based near the city of Iquitos, the world largest river descended to levels lower than any recorded over the last forty years in the first week of September 2010.

Believed to be mainly the result of unusually low rainfall during the dry season over the last few months in the western Amazon, where the rainforest meets the Andes, the low river level is causing serious problems for the city which can only be approached by river or air.

The situation is compounded by shrinking glaciers in the peaks of the Peruvian Andes, the worlds highest tropical mountain range, a phenomenon attributed to global warming.

Typically, the glaciers have maintained the flow of water into the western Amazon river system during the dry season.

The price of many basic foods, mostly imported by river, have risen dramatically, medicines are said to be increasingly hard to get hold of and drinking water in central urban areas is only available for a short time once a day. In the market area of Belen, on the outskirts of the city, the price of fruits and vegetables have soared because of the difficulties of transporting goods by boat or canoe. One kilo of chilli peppers now costs five times its usual price and lemons have doubled from about 40p a kilo to over £1. Many rainforest fruits, typically exported from Iquitos by boat, have been left to rot in the main port area as river access diminishes.

With the Amazon at Iquitos over 15ft lower than the average for this time of year, the authorities are considering declaring a state of emergency. More than 25 ports in the Peruvian Amazon have been effected by the low river levels.

 

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