Salvador: The city made of sugar
Salvador is based on the coastline of Bahia, Brazil. It is always hot - during the day, during the night - always. The average temperature is 30°C, there are 174 rain-days, statistics say. There is no winter as in European countries, there are no seasons. Brazilian people call it winter, when it’s wet season (June-August) and summer when it’s dry (December-February). "But it's never desert-dry, in the last years it was always raining really hard”, says Lina Moraes. She works for “Inema”, the Bahian Government in the sector of Medio Ambiente. “Climate has been changing noticeably for the past decade. Summers become warmer and winters become less ‘cold’ - instead the rain seasons got more and more intense in the past few years, and it's not uncommon for several neighbourhoods in Salvador to be severely flooded during the winter-rain-season.”
BAHIA IS A TROPICAL REGION, WOULD YOU SAY IT IS NORMAL THAT IT ALSO RAINS IN THE SUMMER MONTHS?
“Yes. But the amount of water is so much, that infrastructure cannot stand it. Streets have huge holes, constructions are in every part of Salvador’s city. Sometimes it feels like Salvador is made of sugar because when it rains everything just flows away, it feels like the whole city melts away.” After some hours the rain stops - leaving big rivers in the streets, the drains cannot absorb the huge amount of water.
MAINLY EVERYBODY IS AFFECTED WHO USES SALVADOR’S INFRASTRUCTURE.
Streets are closed, straining traffic jams are routine. “Constructions are tried to be fixed fast since there are presidential elections in September. But it is still surprising how little they adapt to the rain.” Also many farmers are negatively affected by the heavy rain because it destroys sensitive plants as soya. If the current energy status quo remains for the next century, it's very likely that Salvador will get progressively warmer, something that will promote dire changes in the overall weather of the whole region. That will have a particularly egregious effect in agriculture, one of the economic cornerstones of the state.
WHERE DOES ENERGY COME FROM AND WHICH RENEWABLE ENERGIES ARE USED IN BAHIA?
Most of the electric power in Bahia comes from hydroelectric dams, especially from the Sobradinho dam. Brazil is a world-class powerhouse when it comes to hydroelectric power generation since there is a humongous amount of rivers and basins. Wind-based power generation is still a niche market in Brazil, considering the country's size and power distribution, but it's been growing considerably, especially in the state of Ceará. Thermoelectric generators are mostly used for emergency power generation, and the only nuclear power plant, Angra, is located in the state of Rio de Janeiro.
There has also been an effort to implement solar power generation, but it's still a very costly alternative; however, it looks very promising since there is an entire region in Brazil where sunlight is extremely abundant all year long.
Wind power is already something that's being looked upon, and the state of Rio Grande do Norte will likely keep its crown as the king of wind power generation for the next years. However, since hydroelectric power is relatively cheaper and more readily available compared to the alternatives, it becomes very hard to properly implement some changes when it comes to renewable energy generation here.
IF A DAM BROKE, WHAT WOULD HAPPEN?
There were a handful small, but still very damaging incidents with failures of dams, such as the ones in Rondônia or Amapá. In the event of a dam failure in Brazil, the damage will be catastrophic, especially in the Northern Regions, where several communities and villages, indigenous Brazilians included, reside in the vicinity of the rivers' courses. “Theoretical, the government has contingency plans to mitigate the damage, but bureaucracy runs rampant in Brazil's administration and, as the world has witnessed in the hellish happening that was the Bento Rodrigues iron ore tailings dam disaster, recovery from such catastrophes here is very slow - if it ever happens.”
“WASTE SEPARATION” IS A FOREIGN WORD
In Salvador, most of the suburban population lives in places that are geographically very prone to flooding. In addition, poor sanitation engineering in some places and the lack of proper garbage collection just makes things much worse. In some neighbourhoods, the houses are located near or in slopes whose soil has a high chance of land slides during intense rain showers, which end up causing even more disaster victims. Even in some main avenues the risk of flooding still hovers, since the storm drains here aren't built for particularly severe storms. The situation gets worse when some part of the population disposes of their garbage in a wrong way - something that can end up clogging the already battered storm drains and evoking floods.
IT IS NOT A LACK OF MONEY - IT IS A LACK OF VISION
“The problem is also based on a bureaucracy issue. In Brazil, everything has to go through very bloated processes in order for something to be of public service, and unfortunately many entrepreneurs finally give up their efforts to bring more change in that regard. Most of the climate change-related provisions come from state intervention, such as the aforementioned solar and wind power efforts. There is not a lack of money - it is more a lack of vision. The Amazon rainforest isn't just up there for show, but they will only realise its beauty when there's nothing but a sun-baked desert in its place”, Lina Moraes sums up.