Cry Me A River

The mighty Amazon is undisputedly the greatest river. It discharges more water into the Atlantic Ocean than the combined waters of the next ten largest rivers in the world. That’s approximately 20% of the Earth’s freshwater entering the ocean. In the dry season, at its widest it is 11 kilometres; that expands to 48 kilometres in the wet season.

At no point of the river is the Amazon crossed by a bridge, but that’s not because engineers have not found a way to bridge the mighty river. It’s just that most of the river flows through dense tropical rainforests where there are few roads or cities, so crossings are not really needed.

Every year, the Amazon rises nine metres and floods its surrounding forested banks covering an area of 350,000 square kilometres. Its flooded forests, known as várzea, has created a unique and most extensive habitat that contains an extremely high number of freshwater animal species, including two species of freshwater dolphins.

Flowing between the boundaries of Colombia and Venezuela, the Rio Negro is the largest left tributary of the Amazon and the largest blackwater river in the world. The waters of the Rio Negro is not really black but the colour of strong tea. The colour comes from the humic acid formed from the incomplete breakdown of vegetation.

In the wet season, the Rio Negro floods its surrounding areas up to a breadth of 30 kilometers. But this year after several months of drought the river’s depths have dropped so low that by November 19, it trickled to a halt.

The fallen river levels have left about 60,000 people suffering from hunger because fishing and transportation has been paralyzed. Clean drinking water has become unavailable because of contamination from millions of dead fish.

Such severe drought usually affects this area once in a hundred years, but it has been only five years since the last mega-drought in the region. The 2010 drought has been caused by El Niño—an abnormal warming of surface ocean waters in the eastern tropical Pacific. South American fisherman have given this phenomenon the name El Niño, meaning “The Christ Child,” because it comes about the time of Christmas, the celebration of the birth of the Christ.

“(You) told me you were through with me and
Now you say you love me
Well, just to prove you do
Come on and cry me a river, cry me a river
I cried a river over you.”

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