The child threatens Panama Canal watershed


The shortage of rains reported from May to June this year due to the impact of El Niño today puts at risk the Chagres River, the main source of water supply Panama Canal.

According to Carlos Vargas, vice president of Environment, Water and Energy Panama Canal Authority (ACP), atmospheric phenomena currently affecting the country caused historic levels of drought for the river basin this winter period.

He said that last June was the least rainy Seaway in the last 102 years, since the records are kept.

He said the first half of 2015 is the third with the poorest contribution during this period, surpassed only by 1920 and 1977, while rainfall in the canal basin was below average in 20 of the last 22 months.

In this situation, which could be extended until next year due to the influence of El Niño, the ACP adopted conservation measures, rationing and water reuse, and a plan for the protection of forests and reforestation, inside and outside the watershed.

The Chagres or “river of the lizards” feed Gatun and Alajuela lakes that provide water to the Canal and 95 percent of the inhabitants of the cities of Colon, Panama, San Miguelito and La Chorrera.

A study on climate change at the Institute of Environmental Sciences and Biodiversity at the University of Panama revealed that in the isthmus nation exists 70 percent chance that El Niño will spread throughout the rainy season.

“There is evidence that in the past, this phenomenon occurred in Panama decreased rainfall in the regions located on the Pacific side, and an increase in the Caribbean,” said Ramon Antonio Ehman, author of the research.

However, Adrian Chang, the Chagres Foundation, said that the problem of water levels in the river depends not only on climate change but also the lack of interagency efforts to evaluate or diagnose this important source, threatened today by projects miners.

Chang added that the drought in the Chagres can affect the flow of birds that come here in search of food and suitable sites for the period of migration, and movement of the local animals.

In this regard, Ehman said that weather conditions in the country in recent weeks, including high temperatures and heat sensations up to 45 degrees, respond to a deficit of rainfall and persistent downward in the westerlies.

This, he said, also affects the changes in the processes of crops and behavior of animals, especially cattle, lack of water in the troughs.


Ernesto Chong de León, Ernesto Emilio Chong Coronado