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Sambodia | Losing Our Cool

Book_cover_of_Ensaio_sobre_a_Cegueira

Source: Diário do Centro do Mundo

Residents of the São Paulo metro area and inland São Paulo are losing their cool.

This week, residents of a modest condominium in the Southern Zone have been observed by neighbors taking the opportunity of a torrential rain to bathe in the middle of the street. In an interview with a radio station, a flabbergasted neighbor reported that the building lacks the equipment needed to capture rainwater. Elsewhere in the city, many residents captured the water rapidly flowing down the middle of the street to supply their water needs.

The gloomy prospect of a drought in the greater metro area torments a population terrified as to what comes next.

Not by accident, a survey conducted at the beginning of the year indicated that more than half of São Paulo residents would leave the city if they could. The survey was titled “Are you satisfied with the quality of life in São Paulo?” and was conducted on behalf of the NGO Rede Nossa São Paulo, together with the industry federation Fecomercio.

The survey interviewed 1,512 persons over the age of 16 in all the regions of the city between November 24 and December 8 of last year.

One of the questions was precisely this: “If you could, would you leave São Paulo for some other city, or not? More than half — exactly 57% of São Paulo city dwellers — responded with a categorical yes.

Yes, it is true that the water crisis was already underway when the survey was taken, and the survey contained questions on the topic. It was found that for 42% of the population those principally responsible for the crisis in the urban water supply was a lack of planning by the state government and the governor.

What is more, 82% believe there is an elevated risk of long-term water outages in the coming months. Some 68% said they already had problems with their water supply.

What worries metro area residents is not just the loss of pressure in the water taps at home. The shortages have a domino effect that will affect every aspect of daily life in the city.

In a quick thought experiment, the primary consequence of the sad end of the Cantareira system could be the collapse of other reservoirs. This will surely be used to supply the areas once covered by the Cantareira. And they will not be sufficient.

If a rotating access plan of the type “5+2” — five days without and 2 days with water — as suggested by Sabesp were instituted, what happens to industry, commerce, schools and daycares, hospitals, police stations, the corner bakeries?

In this scenario, business establishments will have to reduce their business hours. Many workers will be out of a job, students will no be taught, working women will have nowhere to leave their children as daycares close down.

With the water shortage, farmers are drilling wells to irrigate their fields. As a result, we will shortly see a sizable increase in price for fruits and other grocery items at the check-out counter. The cost of living will rise.

More and more wells will be dug, seriously threatening the quantity and quality of the phreatic groundwater.

Water supply trucks will become a luxury affordable only by the privileged classes. Mineral water will be sold at the price of gold as stockpiles run out.

The communities of the periphery will suffer even more without potable water, basic sanitation, without any resources. The risk of a proliferation of diseases cause by consuming contaminated water will have to be carefully monitored.

There will be marches, rebellion, chaos. Areas once supplied by the Cantareira System will be depopulated. The scenario of wholesale flight from the city might well come to pass, as Rede Nossa São Paulo found.

If traffic congestion, interminable queues, pollution and inefficient public transport already test the patience of citizens at large, imagine what they will have to put up with during days of public disorder such as these.

This is not to prophesy a catastrophic, pessimistic view of the future straight out of the Saramago novel Essay on Blindess. But the reality is what it is, in a not improbable future, unless a biblical deluge falls on the Cantareira in the next few weeks.

It seems as though the state government is the only one who does not perceive this and has let things the Saramago novel Essay on Blindesscome to this pass. A year ago, it wasted a major opportunity to admit the situation publicly, create emergency plans for the difficult months, reforest and protect the region of the fountainheads, negotiate a pact with the population concerning water rationing and winning over the public to its side.

Citizens would almost certainly understand the situation and organize a current of solidarity in the name of survival. Everyone would work to save water and adapt themselves to the new reality.

If it is true that good can come from misfortune, who knows but that the average voter might at least wake up and take notice. Who knows, they might begin to reject the narrow-mindedness of many Brazilian politicians: those who … conceal the truth in order to win votes. Let the voter opt for candidates dedicated to honesty, careful planning, and sustainability. For the common good.

The Governor of São Paulo walked away from a chance to demonstrate these qualities. On the contrary: he showed himself to be far from a statesman of this kind. Now we face the insecurities of an uncertain future. Losing our patience and our composure.