SAO PAULO – Thousands of people took to the streets of Brazil’s largest city on Thursday to say “enough” to the government’s water rationing policy, a measure put in place several months ago due to the severe drought affecting the southeastern part of the country.
The protest focused on the people living in Sao Paulo’s periphery who, as the protesters complained, are suffering the worst effects of the government’s “bad management” of water.
“The water crisis is punishing the poorest, those who are suffering most are the ones living in precarious conditions,” said Guilherme Bolos, the coordinator of the Homeless Workers Movement, one of the organizations leading the protest, which – according to the Militarized Police – attracted 8,000 demonstrators.
That is the case for Maria Roque de Melesa, who lives with her daughter in the eastern part of Sao Paulo where, for the past six months, water rationing has been in effect. “We only have three hours of water per day, sometimes in the morning and other times in the afternoon,” she told Efe.
To complain about cases such as Melesa’s the demonstrators gathered in the western part of the city and marched the five km (3.1 mi.) from Avenida Faria Lima to Bandeirantes Palace, the seat of the local government.
Paradoxically, while Sao Paulo residents are suffering from a lack of tapwater, the city streets this week have been inundated by intense summer rains.
The downpours caused chaos on Wednesday almost everywhere in the city and one person was electrocuted when a tree fell onto a power line, but the rain raised the water levels somewhat in the local reservoirs.
The Cantareira reservoir system, the city’s largest and from which 6.5 million people get their potable water, rose 11.1 percent and ceased having to use its emergency water system, temporarily at least.
Although the reservoirs’ water levels have risen in recent months in Sao Paulo state, they continue to be at historic minimums and the regional government has warned of possible “drastic rationing” starting in March if the situation does not improve.