As you may have already read in the news, hundreds of people have lost their lives in the recent flooding and heavy rains caused by the El Nino phenomenon in Peru. This tragic development raises far too many questions even as the number of deaths continues to increase. Almost 178,000 people are homeless and a million people’s homes are at least partially damaged.
Behind the veneer of beauty, charm, and elegant architecture of colonial towns, poorer people have suffered a lot more than one would imagine. Tourists may soon begin to experience difficulties in getting around with more than 2,500 kilometers of roads destroyed by the floods and rains. The flooding and rains are not limited to just Peru. Neighboring Columbia has experienced similar damages and difficulties due to rain. All this forces us to ask ourselves why Peru, Columbia and other South American countries are so badly hit by climate change.
Why are so many people dying in Peru?
In case of Peru, there are a few reasons why death and destruction have been so pervasive. Large numbers of Peruvians have begun to migrate to the coastal regions of the country, as development is mostly taking place in coastal towns. Traditionally, people lived in the interiors, where the risk of flash floods was lesser. Political patronage to internal migration is one of the main reasons why coastal areas are witnessing a demographic change, overpopulation issues, and lack of preparedness in face of natural calamities.
What could possibly done?
This is more of a political and social issue, coupled with climate change. Rapid urbanization, like anywhere else in the world, has forced people to the peripheries of nature, where they are left vulnerable to calamities such as these, which too are caused due to human activities.
If there is something that we can do at the moment, it is to start dialogues regarding climate change, which unfortunately have taken a backseat across the world. Peru’s floods and heavy rains should be looked at as warning signs of what is yet to come, if we do not try to control rising temperatures through policies at the highest levels of our governments. In parallel, migration in the name of development needs to be controlled with the help of political will, which at the moment is geared toward migrations in order to consolidate their vote banks.