August 08, 2006

Por Falta de Água

The Pan American championships for canoe-kayak slalom are being moved to Madawaska, Ontario, por falta de água — for lack of water.

The competition had been scheduled to be held in September, on Brazil's Itaipu Whitewater Canal. The Itaipu canal was opened in May of this year on a part of the outflow from the massive Itaipu Hydroelectric Dam.

The Amazon River basin is entering its second consecutive year of severe drought, and reservoirs are at 25% of capacity. Last week the Brazilian government declared a state of emergency across the region.

Rivers and lakes have become sand and mud. Millions of fish rot in the sun. Boats are stranded. A massive fire rages out of control along Brazil's eastern coastline. Hundreds of towns receive emergency deliveries by the Brazilian Air Force, including water-purifying chemicals to counter the threat of disease. The Amazon rain forest is drying out as the worst drought on record lingers into its second year. … Scientists do not consider the Amazonian drought to be temporary or local. Scientist Carlos Nobre, of Brazil's National Institute of Space Research (INPE), said, "This drought has no parallel in the last 103 years" since the water levels began to be measured.

The Pan American event will be held on August 19 and 20 in conjunction with the Canadian national championships.

"It's ironic that I heard about the Amazon drought because an email about a sports event" said 18 year old Sara Potvin-Bernal of Chelsea, Quebec, one of the kayak athletes looking forward to the National Championships, and now to the PanAms. "With all the war news dominating headlines right now, it seems hardly anyone has noticed that the Amazon ecosystem is in the middle of a collapse."

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