In Cuba Drought Wreaks Havoc on World Water Day
ROSA LÓPEZ, La Habana | Marzo 22, 2015
International Water Day, droughts, Institute of Water Resources (INRH)
Spring has officially arrived, but without the rain. Every day the drama
worsens in the Cuban countryside, especially in the East. Throughout the
length and breadth of the country, the private agricultural sector is
experiencing a very difficult situation, because of the precariousness
of resources and the lack of methods to transport water.
While the world celebrates International Water Day many farmers look to
the sky to try to predict when the rains will come. The year has begun
with negative omens. Between November 2014 and the end of January an
accumulated shortage of rain has affected 52% of the country. Among the
provinces most affected are Pinar del Río, Artemisa, Cienfuegos, Villa
Clara, Camagüey, Las Tunas, Granma, Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo.
Camagüey, which provides a quarter of the country's production of milk
and meat, is in a state of emergency because of the rainfall deficit and
the low level of its reservoirs. Keeping the livestock fed and the crops
irrigated has become an almost impossible task. The problems do not stop
there. The region's weather center has warned of the danger of forest
fires in the coming weeks.
In the city of tinajones (claypots), families who have a well feel
fortunate, while others depend on water trucks and buy drinking water
from street merchants who trade in different quantities such as jars,
jugs and buckets.
The Government and the National Institute of Water Resources (INRH) call
to increase saving measures and better organize distribution
cycles. However the poor condition of the supply networks, with millions
of leaks, means that a high percentage of pumped water is lost.
The province of Sancti Spiritus faces a similar situation. At least 25
water supply sources are below minimum capacity and 43,000 people depend
on water trucks for cooking, washing, domestic hygiene and irrigating
the fields. Experts agree that the worst is yet to come, when
temperatures rise along with consumption of the precious liquid.
The city of Trinidad is also going through a difficult time dealing with
an increase in tourism while its water systems are virtually empty. Its
main source of supply, the San Juan de Letrán Springs, located in the
Escambray Mountains, are only supplying 25 quarts per second right now,
versus the 110 that normally occurs for these dates.
Maurilio Gonzalez, who lives on the outskirts of the city of Ciego de
Ávila, shows his emaciated cattle surrounded by flies. He complains that
the pastures aren't providing the food needed to sustain the dairy herd.
"I have to leave very early every morning to see from what center I
might get byproducts from sugar-making so that at least my cattle don't
die." Pointing to the land around him, he says, "There is no grass
anywhere, it is all burned up by the sun."
Havana does not escape the problems associated with drought. Antonio
Castillo, deputy director of operations for Havana Water (AH), told the
state media that at the end of April the supply sources for the
capital's water will be at levels between normal and unfavorable. If
rain is not abundant in May, the city will face serious problems with
Josefina Iriarte lives in a part of Old Havana that only receives water
through so-called pipes. "A few weeks ago the supply became more regular
and prices went up," says this resident of Cuba Street, whose sons are
experts at dragging water tanks from hundreds of yards away. The whole
house is designed to store every drop. "But you can't get it if there
isn't any and the longer it doesn't rain the harder it gets."
The reservoirs of Santiago de Cuba only store 255,769,000 cubic meters
right now, 37% of their capacity and one of the lowest levels in recent
years. Dams showing alarming situations are the Protesta de Baraguá Dam
and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Dam, the largest in the country which are
responsible for supplying water to the neighboring provinces of Holguin,
Granma and Guantanamo, on the eastern end of the island.
Cuba has 242 dams, dozens of micro dams and about 2,420 aqueducts. The
networks run over 37,000 miles with 70 water treatment plants and 3,200
miles of sewers. But most of that infrastructure shows some
deterioration and in some cases is in a calamitous state. Millions of
quarts a year are wasted due to damaged taps and pipes that spill the
water before it reaches residences and farms.
Last February, the Director of Organization, Planning and Information of
the National Institute of Water Resources (INRH), Bladimir Matos, called
for "a culture of conservation among users" to try to mitigate the
effects of the current drought and to confront the challenges for the
country and around the globe with regards to water reserves.
The United Nations has put out a call to think about how to distribute
water resources more efficiently and equitably in the future. In other
words, don't just look up and hope that the rains fall; we must rethink
our models of water consumption.
Source: In Cuba Drought Wreaks Havoc on World Water Day -