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Drying rivers, forest fires and more: Climate Change threat looms over Europe as drought-like conditions break centuries-old record

No one in history has ever recorded the River Loire of France being dried up. However, the extreme drought conditions in the country have changed history forever. River Loire is famous for the hundreds of castles across its shores. It is a shallow-water river and one of the major attractions in the country. However, the tourists are unable to see it in its glory due to the unprecedented drought conditions.

The Loire ends its journey into the Atlantic Ocean. Water has now been missing even 100 KMs before the final destination point. Sandbanks are visible everywhere. Earlier, people used to walk between the shores using little Islands in the river, but the situation has changed, and they just walk through the dried-up river.

Notably, Loire valley is a UNESCO World Heritage site with majestic chateaux such as Chambord, Chenonceau and Azay-le-Rideau attracting tourists from across the world. Eric Sauquet, head of hydrology at France’s National Institute for Agriculture, Food, and Environment (INRAE), told Reuters that this year’s drought should be a wake-up call for the people and the authorities.

He said, “The Loire’s tributaries are completely dried up. It is unprecedented. We have to worry about the Loire.” Speaking about the marine animals living in the river, he pointed out that low water levels are disastrous for the fishes as it lacks oxygen and makes it easier for the predators to kill the fish. He said, “Fish need water to live, cool water. When water levels get this low, their environment shrinks, and they get trapped in puddles.”

Nuclear plants and the water crisis

There are four nuclear plants on the shores of the river. France made dams at Naussac and Villerest in the 1980s to ensure water supply to these plants that are located at Belleville, Chinon, Dampierre, and Saint-Laurent. With a combined capacity of 11.6 Gigawatts, these plants are responsible for a fifth of the French electricity production.

The authorities have not released waters from the two dams owing to the requirements of the nuclear plants. However, the delay in releasing water is causing further damage to the river’s ecosystem.

In recent times, the wildfires, torrential rain that damaged Paris metro, and storms that his southern France, the country has seen how disastrous Mother Nature could be. On the contrary, the villages in the south faced a tough time arranging waters as natural springs have dried up. The residents have to rely on the water tankers for consistent supply.

Sauquet said, “Climate change is underway, it’s undeniable… All users will have to re-think their behaviour with respect to water resources.” Météo-France, the nation’s meteorological service, in its bulletin, mentioned that July was the driest on record, with only 15 per cent of the average rainfall received this year.

The drought situation is spreading quickly across Europe

The extreme drought is gripping Europe quickly. As per a Washington Post report, thousands of people have died due to heat waves and massive wildfires. The temperatures are at an all-time high, and Europe is quickly feeling the heat of extreme drought.

There has been below-average rainfall, and the temperatures are above what Europe faces in general. As the conditions continue to remain the same, the region is facing the worst drought in recorded history. Drought is causing further damage as dried-up land and vegetation are catching fire more easily, and crops are dying amidst the lack of water.

European Drought Observatory has issued ‘warning’ conditions for almost hand of Europe that including severe drought and major soil moisture deficit. Apart from that, around 17 per cent of Europe is seeing vegetation getting dried up or thinning. Farmers are among the most affected people in Europe as they are unable to get the required amount of water for their crops.

Sky News quoted senior scientist at the European Drought Observatory Andrea Toreti saying that the present drought conditions could be the worst in the past 500 years. The autumn and winter went dry, resulting in lower groundwaters for spring and summer. Furthermore, ‘human-caused’ climate change added up to the temperature.

Reports suggest that during July, southern parts of Britain, including London, received only 10-20 per cent of the average rainfall. In some areas, the rainfall was next to nothing. On average, London gets around 45 mm or 1.77 inches of rainfall, but this time it was reduced to mere 0.04 inches.

Sattelite images show how draught has gripped London. Source: Washington Post

Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands are facing acute water shortages. The Rhine and other rivers in Germany have become shallow, worrying the experts. Notably, the freight shipping costs on the Rhine have been increased by four times, and large vessels crossing the river have been ordered to carry 30-40 per cent less than their capacity; otherwise, they may run aground.

The Rhine plays a vital role in the shipping industry across Europe, and any disturbance affects the whole ecosystem. Because of the shipping hurdles, the experts believe that Germany may see a fall of up to 0.5 percent in the GDP.

Po River in Italy is facing similar problems, and the Prime Minister of Italy has described it as the “most serious water crisis in 70 years”. In early July, Italy declared a state of emergency in five of the most affected regions. Notably, 30 per cent of Italy’s population lives in the river’s basin. According to AccuWeather, the present conditions have taken a toll on the agriculture and the fishing industry across the region.

Due to the water scarcity in the Po River, the farmers are unable to get the required water supply resulting in rising problems for over three million cattle and six million pigs. The crop yields have decreased by 30 per cent due to weather conditions. Above all, the war in Ukraine has also impacted the cost of harvesting and steaming.

Due to lack of water, shrinking reservoirs, low rainfall, and high temperatures, wildfires have become common in Europe. Recently, 10,000 people were evacuated on Thursday in France near Bordeaux after a wildfire broke in the region. Over 1,000 firefighters had to participate in controlling the blaze.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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