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El Niño

Costa Rica: Government declares National Drought Emergency

The decree, signed on Tuesday afternoon by President Luis Guillermo Solís, states the measure responds to the high impact generated by the phenomenon in the Pacific Rim and the Central Valley, and to the possibility that these conditions continue during the first quarter of 2015. 

El Niño is a phenomenon that occurs because of an increase in temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. Its effect is a drought in the coastal strip of the Pacific and an increase in rainfall in the Caribbean region. 

Ivan Brenes, president of the National Emergency Commission (CNE), said during a press conference that, thanks to the declaration of emergency, they were able to look for the necessary funds between state institutions to face the problem. 

"We still don’t know how much funding we’ll have. Right now we’re asking the different institutions to start searching for funds," said Brenes. 

The declaration is the end result of a series of measures taken by the Government and the institution to appease the consequences of El Niño. Some of them include declaring a Yellow Alert in the middle of this year and the integration of a High Commission to analyse the problem. 

Although the country experienced a brief increase in the amount and distribution of rainfall during the months of September and October in Guanacaste, the National Meteorological Institute (IMN) forecasted El Niño would return in the first months of 2015, which will increase the vulnerability of the regions that had deficient rainfalls. 

As part of the first actions after the emergency state was announced on Tuesday, the CNE will hold workshops in Guanacaste and Puntarenas to identify and prioritize what’s needed, as well as to refine mechanisms for regional and local coordination, address issues such as food, animal health, water supply for human and animal consumption, control of forest fires, rational use of wells and humanitarian assistance to agricultural producers who have had losses. 

According to data provided by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) the country has had losses of some 14 billion colones because of the phenomenon. Of that total, 9 billion colones correspond to the agricultural sector and 5 billion to the livestock sector. 

The MAG’s preliminary data shows that the drought conditions in to the Pacific coast generated losses in livestock, basic grains (rice, maize), sugarcane, fruits (watermelon and orange), milk, beef cattle and honey. Moreover, the cattle have lost weight. 

Last July, Juan Carlos Fallas, director of the Meteorological Institute, stated that there had only been two liters of rain per square meter in the province of Guanacaste, when they were expecting 155 litres per square meter. 

The IMN and the National Commission had also predicted that wildfire season would be harder and could even start in December because of the drought. 


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