Worst year for rainfall in a decade • Holguín and Las Tunas facing most acute situation • Reservoirs at 54% capacity
BY RAISA PAGES—Granma International staff writer—
THE worst year for rainfall in a decade is the description for the period between May 2003 and this April in Cuba, given that precipitation has only been at 84% of its historic average.
Within the national framework, the figures conceal the most dramatic situations in the eastern part of the Cuban archipelago. From Camagüey to Guantánamo, the rainfall reported since May last year is only 80% of its historical average, aggravated by the fact that the scarce rain that has fallen has not been in the areas where rainwater feeds that region’s water supplies.
However, another panorama may be seen in the western and central parts of the country. From Pinar del Río to Ciego de Avila, rainfall has been more adequate. In the eight provinces located in that region, rainfall averages vary between 82% and 108%, according to Francis Francisco Rodríguez, a specialist with the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources, who spoke with Granma International.
The provinces suffering the most dramatic drought of the last 10 years are Camagüey (76% of average rainfall since last May); Holguín (74%) and Guantánamo (69%). Scarcity of is also reported in Las Tunas (78%), although that province’s worst year for rainfall was 2001. Granma, which also reports low rainfall (79%), had its worst year during 1999-2000.
Holguín is in the worst situation, suffering from two consecutive years of the poorest rainfall in the last decade. During the 2002-2003 period, the eastern province only received 83% of its average rainfall, now standing at 74%.
If the current drought in eastern Cuba is compared to precipitations registered since 1961, today’s shortages were surpassed only by the lack of rainfall during 1986-87, Rodríguez explained.
As far as water supplies for the population are concerned, the most critical situations are in the cities of Las Tunas and Holguín, above all the latter. The water basins that feed into the reservoirs for these cities have received very little water since May of last year, between 52% and 66% of their averages.
Cuba’s 241 reservoirs are at a reported 54% capacity and reached this spring with some 1,321 million cubic meters less water than at the same date last year. However, in the special municipality of the Isle of Youth, southwest of the mainland, the damns are at the same levels they were during the same period last year.
The provinces with reservoirs that have experienced the heaviest losses are Granma, Sancti Spíritus and Camagüey, all three down 50 million cubic meters od water. Those of Villa Clara, Santiago de Cuba, Holguín and Las Tunas are also feeling the scarcity.
These losses in water supplies are related not only to consumption by the population but also agricultural demands for water in the given territories, as is the case in Granma and Sancti Spíritus, where rice cultivation is higher than in other areas and uses more water.