Amazon forest loss risks water security across South America

Water, food supplies and energy production are all in jeopardy as the Amazon forest is felled for profit. And as Paul Brown writes, the damage is spreading well beyond Amazonia itself.

The continued destruction of the Amazon to exploit its resources for mining, agriculture and hydro-power is threatening the future of the South American continent, according to a report by campaigning groups using the latest scientific data.

Five countries - Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru - share the Amazon, and for all of them the forest area occupies more than 40% of their territory. All face threats to their water supply, energy production, food and health.

Declining rainfall

In addition, the report says, because of the over-exploitation of the region rainfall will fall by 20% over a heavily-populated area far to the south of Amazonia known as the La Plata basin, covering parts of Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Last month it was reported that deforestation in Amazonia had increased by almost a third in the past year, with an area equal to 50 football pitches destroyed every minute since 2000.

The report, the Amazonia Security Agenda, authored by the Global Canopy Programme and CIAT, the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, says the prosperity of the region is based on the abundance of water.

"Amazonia's abundant natural resources underpin water, food, energy, and health security for the economy and people of the region and far beyond", the report states.

"At the heart of this nexus of securities is water. So abundant in the region, but now under increasing threat as industrial pollution increases, and unprecedented droughts reveal a once unthinkable water vulnerability."

For the complete article, please see the ecologist.