Drought wreaks havoc across Uruguay

Persistent hot weather linked to the current La Nina pattern has raised the specter of drought in Uruguay, and fears of long-term damage to the farming sector and a shortage of drinking water.

Agustin Damboriarena, manager at the Uruguayan Chamber of Seeds, in the capital Montevideo, said the 2022-23 summer in the country has been difficult for the farm sector.

“It has been a bad year, an awfully bad year, because soybean, corn, seed, sunflower, and forage crops have been lost. In every sense, we have lost,” he said, adding that soy producers estimate a loss worth $800 million to $1 billion.

“In terms of drinking water consumption, in the south of the country, the use of water for nonessential purposes has been restricted,” said Damboriarena.

In Montevideo, the government imposed strict measures to save water to protect not only the population, from a lack of access to drinking water, but also the country’s economy, which relies on agricultural exports as a major source of foreign currency.

“The scarcity of rainfall has caused a significant reduction in the availability and access to water at the beginning of the year 2023, which has also been affected by the presence of the La Nina phenomenon in the region,” Uruguay’s National System of Emergencies reported last month.

“According to information released by the Uruguayan Institute of Meteorology, there is no square meter of the country that is not dry,” it added. Uruguay’s National System of Emergencies said firefighters have conducted over 1,200 missions this drought season in the nation of 3.5 million people.

Environmental experts warn that the weather imbalances of the Amazon rainforest due to fires and deforestation are affecting the whole region.

“When deforestation or other forms of human activity disrupt this delicate balance, it can have severe consequences for the climate and the ecosystem in South America and the world,” said Ana Luiza Tunes, an environmental engineer, water management specialist, and founder of a news portal on the Amazon rainforest.

“The Amazon rainforest plays a crucial role in regulating weather patterns in the region and keeping the climate stable. One of the most important functions of the forest is to generate large amounts of moisture, which is then transported by the wind to other regions, helping to maintain humidity levels,” Tunes added.