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In Brazil, the worst drought in decades felt in a gigantic dam

The gigantic Itaipu hydroelectric dam straddling the Brazil-Paraguay border suffers the heat of the worst drought in Brazil in nine decades

HERNANDARIAS, Paraguay – The gigantic Itaipu hydroelectric dam, straddling the Brazil-Paraguay border on the vast Parana River, is suffering the heat of the worst drought in Brazil in nine decades.

Sometimes described as one of the Modern Seven Wonders of the World, Itaipu’s shores, usually lush and green, have turned rocky and bare.

According to Itaipu’s website, 2020 was one of the driest years in the history of the plant, with power output at its lowest level since 1994, a decade after its inauguration and when had less capacity than today.

Production this year will be even lower, by around 15%, said Hugo Zarate, the plant manager.

“We don’t expect the water scarcity crisis to be resolved until 2022. We will start the year in a rather complicated situation,” Zarate told The Associated Press.

It’s devastating for a country where hydropower production accounts for around two-thirds of total installed capacity, and experts warn of possible power shortages in the months to come.

President Jair Bolsonaro said last month that the reservoirs at hydroelectric dams were “at the limit” and called on Brazilians to put out a lamp, take cold showers and stop using elevators when necessary. possible.

Lawmakers have even discussed a return to daylight saving time.

Crops have withered as energy costs and food prices skyrocket. Zarate noted that the lack of rain “has an impact on navigation, fishing and tourism”.

The Parana River that feeds the Itaipu factory is one of South America’s main commercial waterways, passing through Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. It hit its lowest level in almost 80 years. Ships on the river had to reduce their tonnage to continue sailing.

Reduced water levels are part of natural cycles. But experts have warned that human activity is affecting global weather patterns, leading to more frequent extreme events such as severe droughts and floods.

A recent study showed that Brazil, the richest freshwater country on the planet, has lost 15% of its surface water since 1991.


AP journalist Diane Jeantet reported from Rio de Janeiro.