Constant Flooding In Brazil Displacing Citizens, Causing Climate Migration

Ongoing flooding in southern Brazil has displaced nearly half a million people who are now considering moving to higher ground to avoid future devastation. This “climate migration” is one of the biggest Brazil has experienced.

Two weeks ago the southern part of the nation experienced flooding brought on by torrential rains. The Guaiba River, which runs near the state capital of Porto Alegre, has begun flooding again, surpassing previous flooding records. 

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Researchers estimate that in the area around Porto Alegre alone, there is about 1,500 square miles of land that have now been flooded. Hundreds of thousands of families have evacuated the flooded areas, and the severe weather has caused around 147 deaths with 127 people still missing. 

This recent flooding is adding further damage to the floods that Rio Grande do Sul experienced during the entire second half of last year, according to reports. Around 538,000 people are currently displaced from their homes from the months of ongoing flooding. 

Local businessman Cassiano Baldasso spoke to Reuters about the frustration he’s been experiencing having his home filled with mud every time it floods, forcing him to take the mud out by wheelbarrow. He lives in Muçum, which is 90 miles upriver from Porto Alegre. 

“I have no idea where I’m going, but it will be somewhere far from the river, where our lives will not be at risk,” Baldasso told Reuters.

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Mayor of Muçum, Mateus Trojan, stated that a majority of the town’s 5,000 residents will have to relocate. The mayor’s office is already planning on rebuilding 40% of the town in another location where it will ideally not be as vulnerable to flooding. 

Governor Eduardo Leite has stated that Rio Grande do Sul will need at least 19 billion reais (USD $3.7 billion) to rebuild all the infrastructure that’s been damaged. The government is offering to freeze 11 billion reais of debt payments for three years to support the nation as it recovers. 

Environmental experts have stated that the new reality for a lot of the towns in Brazil is a need to relocate entire neighborhoods.

“We need to move urban infrastructure away from high-risk environments and return space to the rivers … so they no longer impact cities with such magnitude,” said ecologist Marcelo Dutra, professor at the Rio Grande Federal University.

“We can’t oppose nature. We have to wake up to this force that is telling us we need to adapt and respect nature,” he said.