Worst drought in 50 years in Chile
© Reuters. A view of arid earth as a wetland dries up, in Punta Arenas, Chile February 2, 2023. REUTERS/Joel Etay Jara
PUNTA ARENAS, Chile (Reuters) – In Chile’s remote south, the country’s gateway to Antarctica, the worst drought in half a century is hitting cattle ranchers and vegetable farmers, causes the earth to become arid in some areas where grass cannot grow for grazing.
The Andean producing nation, currently battling deadly fires in the south-central region, is suffering from a drought lasting more than a decade that has created challenges for the mining, agriculture and bee industries.
In the southernmost city of Punta Arenas, that led to a water emergency being declared last year.
“In 2022, Punta Arenas has its driest year in 52 years,” said Nicolas Butorovic, a climatologist from Magallanes University in the region.
The Magallanes region, an area of vast fjords and ice sheets that is home to the iconic Torres del Paine national park, often creaks under cold temperatures and strong winds that exacerbate dryness.
“The wind blows and dries everything and the grass doesn’t grow, that’s the tragedy we’re facing,” said Hector Garay, a livestock farmer in the area.
Cristian Vivar, owner of a local dairy company, said the area was facing a “very difficult winter” ahead due to a lack of water to grow animal feed.
“Without irrigation, rainwater, grass won’t grow. We’re talking about what will be lacking, fodder for our livestock,” he said.
Bernardita Contreras said her first litter of rhubarb survived but no chance for a second.
“There is no hope of recovery because without water, we have no water to irrigate,” she said.
In an area famous for tourism, Rodrigo Bustamante, president of the association of hotels and tourist services, said the whole area was dry.
“This year is much hotter than other years, more windy, this is also a component that dries out the countryside more and dries the whole territory,” he said.