El Niño Dries Up 13 Main Rivers in Mexican State of Chiapas
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State officials will ask the federal government to decree a state of emergency in various regions of the state to access national disaster funds.
The southern Mexican state of Chiapas has been hard hit by the El Niño climate phenomenon causing such an intensive drought that 13 rivers have been completely dried up, Mexican newspaper Reforma said on Friday.
State Director of Civil Protection Luis Manuel Garcia told Reforma that 40 Chiapan municipalities have been affected, of which four are experiencing extreme drought.
“All of the biggest rivers in the coastal area of Chiapas have been practically dried up,” Garcia said.
In light of the extreme circumstances, Garcia said they would send a petition to the federal government requesting that they issue a state of emergency decree for three of Chiapas’ municipalities in order to get financial resources from the National Disaster Fund.
"The drought issues began last year when we recorded 36 percent less rains than the historical average, and this year has so far been the same,” he said.
The official recalled that Chiapas is one of Mexico’s states with more rains, but that due to El Niño, this is no longer true.
"The wells from which water for the population is extracted are eight metres below their normal level,” Garcia said.
According to meteorologists’ predictions, the drought will continue to affect the state during May, which has prompted the state government to ask farmers to delay the beginning of their plantations for about a month.
The threat of drought has been looming over Mexico since at least October of 2015, when experts predicted the country would soon be hit by the worst drought in recent history.
The effects of the climate phenomenon have already been felt in Baja California, Oaxaca, Yucatan, Guerrero and Chiapas.
El Niño in Chiapas: water rations in effect
13 rivers have almost dried up as a result of drought
A severe drought caused by the meteorological phenomenon El Niño has affected the state of Chiapas, where some rivers can no longer provide water for several municipalities and underground reservoirs are being depleted, forcing authorities to enforce water rationing measures.
Just in the last month, 13 rivers have virtually dried up, affecting 40 municipalities in the Soconusco and Costa regions of the state.
Drought in 36 of those is considered moderate by the state Civil Protection office while in the remaining four — Arriaga, Tonalá, Pijijiapan and Las Margaritas — it has reached severe levels.
“The Lagartero river represents the main water supply for Tonalá and several communities [within the municipality]; rivers like Doña María or Cintalapa, and all the great rivers of the coast region, are virtually drying up,” said Civil Protection chief Luis Manuel García.
In some Pijijiapan neighborhoods, tap water is only available one or two days per week as the Coapa river can’t cope with providing a full supply to the municipality.
In total, seven rivers run through it, two of which have completely dried up, while the others present very low flows.
In order to access national disaster funds, the state government is working with the federation to declare a state of emergency in the municipalities of Arriaga, Tonalá and Pijijiapan.
“Last year rainfall was 36% below average and so far this year the trend continues”, observed García, who recalls that similar conditions were experienced during the 1997-1998 season when one of the strongest El Niño events on record was registered.
A technical study of the region’s aquifers was performed recently, said García, and all were found to be below their average levels. “Wells that supply water for several cities were found to be eight meters below their usual levels.”
Due to the emergency conditions, local authorities have decided to cover several communities’ water needs through tanker trucks, while also monitoring bottled water distributors to ensure they keep their prices at a reasonable level.
In the state capital the water department has performed repairs to its network in order to control and prevent leakage.
The water supply in Tuxtla Gutiérrez is also limited to access twice a week, while its two water treatment plants have been operating at 70% and 30% capacity, respectively.
Weather forecasts predict that the drought could extend through May, and that rains should be expected sometime in June.
Faced with these conditions, farmers have been warned to postpone sowing crops until further notice.
Source: Reforma (sp)