Several years ago, when I was talking with a friend, I asked him where he was on February 19, 2002. He told me that in the office where we were occasionally working. The office was located in the neighborhood of La Paz Bolivia, from where he saw how the streets became a river in a few minutes dragging vehicles of all types, weight and size.
That day, the precipitation of hail lasted almost 60 minutes, causing the city of La Paz to fill with ice and turn into a mighty deadly river due to the fact that in its channel it took dozens of lives, left hundreds of wounded and several disappeared. That day is remembered for people with a deep feeling of anguish and despair that awakens each time it rains torrentially. Do you remember another similar event or unusual floods? I asked the friend and he told me that his grandfather had told him about a flood in his homeland in the sixties and that he had heard about the flood in Santa Cruz de la Sierra range of the year 1983 when 3000 families were transferred to other sectors of the city after the Piraí river overflowed. Nothing else, although there were years that rained a lot causing fatal events although isolated.
After a few years I lost contact with my friend. Now, in our days, I see in the news that every day there are more regions affected by the extraordinary increase in the flow of the rivers that, when overflowing, take ahead what crosses them, including houses and people, provoking indignation, grief and a great disappointment because those events could have been mitigated. Return to the past history, the 1960 was a year that according to official reports of the Naval Force of Bolivia settled in Riberalta Department of Beni was also historic; in that region a level of flood of the rivers was registered a little superior to the twelve meters. In 2008, after a lapse of almost 50 years, there were extreme floods in the Beni and several departments of Bolivia with adverse hydrometeorological and climatic effects, for which reason the Central Government had to declare a National Disaster Situation by means of a Supreme Law No. 29438 of February 12, 2008.
After a lapse of six years, the water levels reached increased above twelve meters to reach during the rainy season 2013-2014, an unusual increase in water level to more than fourteen meters, causing extreme flooding with serious damage to families settled on the banks of the Beni River in the municipalities of Rurrenabaque and San Buenaventura.
The central Government by Supreme law No. 1878 of January 28, 2014 declares a national emergency due to the presence of floods, hail, river overflows, landslides and frosts, caused by extreme climatic variations and intense rainfall. The cycle is further reduced and after four years, between January and February of 2018, rainfall in Bolivia has again caused the increase of river flows to levels that have not yet been quantified.
The description in this article, confirms that we are living a climate change and the cause is not only the increase in temperatures due to the greater presence of bad gases in the atmosphere; but also the indiscriminate and illegal deforestation on the banks and near them in the rivers; that, added to the increase in temperatures, it is concluded that water in high quantities ravages.
The national government has a position on climate change and has been exposed at an international level and is reflected in Law 300 of October 12, 2012. Within the framework of this strategy and the joint mechanism of mitigation and adaptation to climate change, it is already they designed research projects that, by harmonizing local science and knowledge, have implemented reforestation techniques that are producing results. The problem is that these initiatives are not continued and the result is disasters that are little mitigated and spread continuously.
During two years, FONABOSQUE through an emergency plan in 2014 first and through a project in 2015 after, faced research tasks to reforest with fast growing species the bank and tributaries of the Beni river in indigenous communities of the municipalities of Rurrenabaque, San Buenaventura, Apolo and Ixiamas (Riberalta was expected more) and that now we see have not been affected in the current rainy season, which allows us to infer that the research is giving results, although for the lack of continuity commented, Riberalta and several other municipalities that requested this direct and concrete support were not attended yet.
Reforest with modern and sustainable techniques is the key to reduce the effects of floods and regulate the climate. Bolivia must continue betting on research through reforestation initiatives aimed at creating natural defenses, and the population must understand that forests have an environmental function and are temperature regulators, however, if governmental initiatives are diluted, they deepen and do not improve and in parallel illegal deforestation continues, we will be lamenting in the coming years greater and worse disasters.
Pablo Fernández Wieler is an economist and a specialist in strategic planning. Responsible for the Generation of Businesses area in Gerenssa.