By: Kylie Caesar
In this series, TEX is featuring a number of blogs from student volunteers who assisted at AGU’s Fall Meeting in December 2015. Each volunteer was asked to find community science projects in either oral or poster sessions and describe how the project aligns with the TEX mission and values.
On Thursday Morning at AGU 2015 when walking the poster hall I came upon a presentation entitled Strengthening adaptation to extreme climate events in Southwestern Amazonia: an example from the trinational Acre River Basin in the Madre de Dios/Peru – Acre/Brazil – Pando/Bolivia (MAP) Region presented by Irving Foster Brown.
After I explained exactly what Thriving Earth Exchange was Irving quickly said “Oh you have to follow me…” He led me across the poster hall to presentations by his colleagues Maria de Nazareth Mello de Araujo Lambert and George Luiz Pereira Stantos. Irving referred to them affectionately as “The Acre Group” and explained that they are all united and working toward the common goal of working with local and state governments to help the state of Acre respond to the extreme weather events it is currently experiencing.
Their study area is the Acre state located in the southwestern region of the Brazilian amazon and is bordered by Peru, Brazil, and Bolivia. Acre covers 165,000 km2 and has 22 municipalities with an estimated population of nearly 800,000 inhabitants.
Over the past decade, severe extreme events including floods and forest fires have hit the region and caused many negative economic, environmental, as well as social impacts. George Luiz Pereira Stantos explained that Acre began to face these extreme events over the past 17 years and based on his data they appear to be sequential with increasing frequencies and magnitudes.
They believe that one of the largest issues Acre is currently facing is the floods that have invaded sections of the BR-364 highway. This highway provides the main route for supplies and is the only terrestrial link with southern half of the state. Past flood have left much of the southern Amazon region with limited fuel and food for nearly 2 months. The isolation of the BR-364 highway forced Federal and local governments to mount a virtual war operation to ensure food security and the functioning of essential service such as fuel and medical care.
Also over the past 10 years in the Acre State, both flooding and droughts have increased the rate of declarations of Emergency Situation or State of Public Calamity. These disasters have also cost the state an estimated $258 million in damages. Just this past year alone, flooding in Acre affected 13,400 people directly and cost the rural areas $36.7 million.
Both Maria de Nazareth Mello de Araujo Lambert and George have worked as coordinators of the Response Unit/Civil Defense Situation Room during the most recent flood and they both agreed that it showed them “the need to prepare for such events in ALL areas of public policy” such as public works, productive sector, health, sanitation, and low income housing.
The priorities Maria, George, and Irving largely agreed to focus on and work toward in the future were:
- Support scientific studies and the production of technical data related to the impacts of extreme events in the state of Acre. They believe this will strengthen the resilience of Acre’s current sustainable economic development model.
- Update the Ecological-Economic Zoning of Acre to include the impact of extreme events.
- Analyze long-term scenarios for the Acre state to foster resilience and to support the actions of mitigation and adaption as needed
- Integrate actions in the area of innovation; education, public administration and civil society in order to implement projects of the formation of strong communities that are able to better withstand such extreme events.
- Adjust the legal framework to deal with the droughts and flooding at all levels of government so that governments have the instruments necessary to respond to these high level disasters.
- Raise awareness and create an integrated plan of attack to implement when the extreme events strike so that all of Acre is “on the same page.”
Although they understand that these goals will not happen overnight, Iriving even compared it to “changing the tires on a moving car”, the Acre group remains hopeful that their research and communication with the government will certainty lead to positive change in the region.