What is happening to the Paraná River and why should you care about it?

The second largest river in Latin America is drying up, putting the region's ecosystems and economy at risk.

Photo of the Paraná river

Currently, this important tributary is in danger, experiencing one of the longest droughts in the last 70 years. Photo: Wikimedia-Falk2

LatinAmerican Post | Vanesa López Romero

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Leer en español: ¿Qué pasa con el río Paraná y por qué debería importarte?

The Paraná River is, after the Amazon, the second largest river in Latin America and runs through Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. Currently, this important mass of water is in danger, as it is experiencing one of the longest droughts in the last 70 years due to different factors such as climate change and negligence of governments and citizens to prevent the environmental crisis. As a consequence, not only ecosystems are affected, but also the economy of a region that is highly dependent on the resources offered by the river.

Why should you care that the Paraná is drying up?

It is no secret that the climate crisis, and consequently the environmental crisis, is one of the most recurrent and discussed problems in recent decades. However, the general outlook on this issue is often permeated by skepticism and alienation. For its part, Latin America is one of the regions that has been and will continue to be most affected by the environmental, economic and social consequences that climate change brings, despite not being the region that contributes the most to the problem. Given this, we meet regional leaders who have done little or nothing to support the mitigation of the environmental crisis, in addition to meeting a climate change denier president in the most important region in terms of biodiversity: Brazil.

Also read: How can you Become a Sustainable Consumer?

This denial and skepticism is accompanied, in most cases, by very clear economic and political interests. The fight against the environmental crisis proposes changing consumption patterns, which means that there is less extraction of natural resources. This reduction directly affects industries, as they would have to change their production models for more sustainable ones. Here, the lobby is the biggest enemy, since companies, denied to this change, make use of political favors to be able to continue with their activities, whether legally or illegally.

But these activities of massive and irresponsible extraction of natural resources generate consequences, because to the extent that resources run out, the economic possibilities of small communities that live day to day from said resources run out. This is only a matter of time. Resources are running out, rivers are drying up.

What is happening in Latin America?

One of the biggest problematic in the region is deforestation. Latin America currently occupies the first place with the highest deforestation globally. The Amazon rainforest located in Brazil is the one that is being affected the most by this, due to legal and illegal cattle ranching. In fact, this deforestation in the South American giant is one of the reasons why Paraná is drying up. As there are fewer trees, humidity levels also drop. This, accompanied by seasons of drought and high levels of pollution due to mining, results in the Paraná River being almost dry, artisanal fishing being cut off, boats being stuck by low water levels, Ecosystem landscapes change, species are endangered and, eventually, the inhabitants who get their supplies from the river are left without economic income.

If this is happening with the second largest river in Latin America, how much time is left for other important rivers for the region? How much time is left for the Amazon River? Droughts are natural processes, but in this case, a 40-year drought puts ecosystems and human life at risk. This same lack of rain that is now shaking a river that runs through the three countries already mentioned, puts rivers such as the Rio Grande, the São Francisco, the Orinoco, among others, between a rock and a hard place.

What can we do?

Requiring governments to regulate and penalize those who violate them is vital to keep these ecosystems protected. Likewise, the protection of the environmentalists is of the utmost importance, since they are the ones who are putting their lives at risk every day to take care of a future that many of us believe we have insured.

Likewise, supporting small communities from responsible tourism and from the purchase of their products, can be a great step for the individual to help conserve and keep these tributaries alive.

Above all, it is very important to understand that if we take care of resources today, we will be taking care of a less uncertain future for our planet and our species.

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