Drying out

Drying out NASA Earth Observatory
22 Aug
2015
Chile’s government is taking urgent action to prevent a water crisis after continuing low rainfall leaves no end in sight for the drought which has afflicted the country

The past decade has seen long-running drought conditions in Chile, with rainfall as much as 50 per cent below historical rates. Despite brief storms in early July – the first in more than two years to bring more than one inch of rain to the region – the drought shows no sign of relenting.

This has had severe impacts on agricultural production and has become a key cause of forest fires, as well as damaging the domestic copper industry which provides 19 per cent of government revenue. The Atacama desert in northern Chile, already recognised as one of the driest in the world, is now threatening to spread south, towards the seven million inhabitants of the capital, Santiago.

In June, Aarón Cavieres, Executive Director of CONAF, the National Forestry Corporation, announced to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) a plan to invest $250million (£160million) to replant 100,000 hectares of degraded land with native forest.

‘Some $1.5billion has been provided in recent years to recover lands, in areas like forestry, prairies, and agricultural lands,’ Cavieres said. ‘We are proposing goals that we will meet because we are moving in lines of work that reinforce the path to a sustainable forest and environmental sector.’

This follows an announcement from President Michelle Bachelet earlier this year that the government would be looking into building desalinisation plants, as well as investing $170million (£108million) to access underground water sources, build and upgrade canals and improve irrigation systems. ‘There is no choice but to assume that the lack of water resources is a reality that is here to stay,’ she declared.

In the short-term, residents of Santiago and central Chile will likely welcome the prospect of a strong El Niño event this year, due to the heavy rains which tend to arrive during such episodes.

‘This year’s El Niño could rival that of 1997–98, which was one of the strongest on record,’ reports AccuWeather Meteorologist Anthony Sagliani. ‘While El Niño is likely to have a positive impact on the drought, it is not likely to completely stop it moving forward during the next six to nine months.’

This article was published in the September 2015 edition of Geographical Magazine

Share this story...

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter

Related items

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe Today

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth UniversityUniversity of GreenwichThe University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • The Air That We Breathe
    Cities the world over are struggling to improve air quality as scandals surrounding diesel car emissions come to light and the huge health costs of po...
    Diabetes: The World at Risk
    Diabetes is often thought of as a ‘western’ problem, one linked to the developed world’s overindulgence in fatty foods and chronic lack of physi...
    The Nuclear Power Struggle
    The UK appears to be embracing nuclear, a huge U-turn on government policy from just two years ago. Yet this seems to be going against the grain globa...
    National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    REDD+ or Dead?
    The UN-backed REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) scheme, under which developing nations would be paid not to cut dow...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in PLACES...

Mapping

Sometimes referred to as the fourth dimension, time has a…

Forests

A global, citizen-led carbon sequestration scheme is aiming to combat…

Mountains

Among the Himalaya region, which along with most of the…

Cities

Beijing looks set to welcome to its streets an innovative…

Cities

The next step towards declaring London a National Park City…

Mapping

The spatial distribution of healthcare workers globally tells us a…

Forests

After an ‘unprecedented’ surge northwards into New Jersey, New York…

Forests

The historic end of civil war in Colombia has had…

Mapping

Where in America can the country's various hate groups be…

Water

The southern US state is sinking twice as fast as…

Cities

An increase in visitors is putting severe strain on Iceland’s…

Cities

Air pollution campaigners hold a disco roadblock, but can it…

Cities

Cities the world over are struggling to improve air quality…

Forests

HSBC has requested a Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil investigation…

Mapping

Benjamin Hennig explores visions of a world made bright by humanity

Forests

The EU has asked the European court to authorise an…

Forests

Was last year’s El Niño a practice run for future…

Cities

Far from being separate threats, scientists have found links between…

Mountains

Is the official height of Mount Everest accurate?

Mapping

Where in the world is the highest density of languages?…