Manaus, a city known for its vibrant nature and lush surroundings, is experiencing an unparalleled environmental crisis. Typically a city of blue skies and flourishing freshwater resources, it is now struggling with the ramifications of one of the most severe droughts in over a century.
Factors like the El Niño phenomenon and anthropogenic global warming have exacerbated the dry season, severely affecting Manaus’s environment and the broader Amazon basin. The clear blue skies have been replaced with a smoggy brown haze, reminiscent of China’s peak pollution days. The drought has also severely impacted the city’s port, which now lies beyond vast stretches of dried, litter-filled mudflats.
The region’s surrounding forests, which are usually moist and resilient, have been ravaged by numerous fires due to the dry conditions. Recent air quality readings in Manaus showed a staggering 387 micrograms of pollution per cubic meter – a significant contrast to São Paulo’s 122 micrograms. Only one industrial city in Thailand reported worse air quality than Manaus.
Local media has been highlighting the crisis. A Crítica newspaper’s front page showcased the drought-stricken port, emphasizing the health risks and the complications in transporting essential goods. Cenarium magazine featured an article titled “Boiling Amazon,” focusing on the unusual heat and low humidity, causing the forests to become alarmingly dry.
This drought isn’t exclusive to Manaus. The entire state of Amazonas has been hard-hit, with reports suggesting a record high of 2,770 fires during the current dry season. While more droughts and fires are anticipated during El Niño years, local firefighting capabilities have proven inadequate.
Officials from various towns have expressed concerns about the region’s lack of preparedness. The secretary from Borba highlighted the absence of basic infrastructure, suggesting that better facilities could have mitigated many of these issues. Meanwhile, Jane Crespo from Maués, located 155 miles from Manaus, voiced concerns about some municipalities’ inability to source enough water to combat the ongoing fires.