The Paraguay River is now on its lowest level in 50 years as the region is reeling from months of extreme drought. The drop in water levels slowed down cargo vessel traffic, resulting in cost overruns for imported goods and a loss of 250 million dollars.
The river has been depleted due to a lack of rainfall in the Pantanal area of Mato Grosso, Brazil. The water flows from that area, running through Bolivia and Argentina. Around 85 percent of Paraguay's foreign trade is conducted through the river.
The crisis has led to major cost overruns for the transport of imported goods such as fuel, fertilizer, and food, as the water depletion slowed down cargo vessel traffic.
The crisis has also exposed the precariousness of Paraguay’s access to drinking water, the Associated Press (AP) noted.
Nery Giménez, president of the Paraguayan Importers Center, told the AP that the country has never had a situation as serious as this one.
"We have never had a situation as serious as the one we are experiencing now. We are approaching the end of the year, a time when more products must enter."
Gimenez added that the government had announced the lifting of pandemic-related lockdown, but the river crisis is threatening the resurgence of economic activity.
Losses in Paraguay’s river transport sector have already hit 250 million dollars, according to Paraguayan Shipowners' Center president Esteban dos Santos.
"What worries us the most is that the river is going down at a rate of 3 or 4 cm (1.2 to 1.6 inches) per day. The navigation situation is critical. In a week, no boat will be able to reach Asuncion."
The river's falling levels also revealed that a rocky islet in Asuncion is actually part of an extinct volcano dating back more than 40 million years, geologists said.
If the situation continues to deteriorate, the country may face bigger price hikes and other shortages. Wildfires have also erupted in other parts of the country due to severe drought.
Featured image credit: redcharlie/Unsplash