El Niño is a natural phenomenon that happens every two to seven years. This phenomenon disrupts the weather around the world (mainly around the equator) and brings Heavy rains and droughts to different parts of the world .
The 2011-2015 has been the hottest five-year period in the history of the world. This gives a good context to why the 2016 El Niño phenomenon was considered to be a “Super Niño” and one of the harshest ever recorded. It caused hundreds of wildfires in Indonesia and flooding’s in China, as well as dry spells and record high temperatures in Venezuela and Colombia .
The Guri Dam is the biggest dam in Venezuela, it is situated in the south of the country and it is also the largest electricity producer in this South American country. Back in 2016 the country suffered a strong dry spell and the water levels at the Guri dam dropped to an all-time low that left the majority of the country without energy for several weeks.
The Central Hidroeléctrica Simón Bolívar, the official name of the dam, provides electricity for about 70% of the country and it had to be almost completely shut down due to the dry spell it faced. This meant that more than half of the country was without electricity . The inefficiencies of the Venezuelan government are no secret to the world; even though we should consider how stronger this phenomenon was on 2016, a huge lack of preparation and proper maintenance of equipment is a key factor in this electrical crisis.
The Venezuelan government policies to counteract this were, to say the least, comical. The president Nicolas Maduro called for women to stop using hairdryers and to embrace their natural looks to save energy. He also suggested that the people should take advantage of the heat stroke and dry their clothes to the air instead of using machines . The Venezuelan government policies change from comical to tragic when they gave the state employees a two-day work week (yes, public employees only had to work Mondays and Tuesdays) in an effort to reduce energy usage in the country .
Apart from this public policies, the government reduced the working time of the malls to only a couple hours a day. Malls where required to close from 1pm to 3pm, and then again from 7pm to 9pm. This had a huge negative impact on the economy of the country because the hours of most economic activity in the malls are from 1pm to 7pm. Many business owners complained that this measures from the government were a bit extreme, and more when the government could have done more to prevent this . Also the theaters and movie theaters were affected by this rationings, their schedules got cut and they were forced to close at night when they usually had their most proficient hours of work.
It is clear that this crisis could have been prevented (or reduced) with a better planning from the government. Maintenance in the electrical power plants, some prevention measurements for El Niño phenomenon, and overall better organization with the power distribution are some mechanism that could have been put in place to reduce the damage. This whole situation leads us to question if it is better to spend money in the planning and maintenance of equipment or just wait for all of them to be atrophied and implement some late extreme emergency response.
There is insufficient data about how much this electrical crisis cost the government on the long run, but it is not far fetched to stipulate that the costs of fixing the situation were greater than those of keeping all the equipment proper.
It is clear that climate change is getting worse by year, in just the last couple years we can see how climate has affected different areas of the world with catastrophic results. We can see how bad planning made this crisis in Venezuela worst, but we have more recent examples where regardless of the planning nature was too big of a force to battle. Puerto Rico and the Caribbean Islands where severely damage by the tropical storms, Mexico suffered two severe earthquakes, and many wildfires have been spreading through California.
At this point, it is impossible to keep denying the existence of climate change and the effects it has on our world. We should be taking precautions against natural disasters, but more importantly we should be taking action to prevent future and further damage.
By Eduardo Salomon
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- Dearden, Lizzie. “Venezuela Energy Crisis: President Tells Women to Stop Using Hairdryers and Go with ‘Natural’ Style to Save Electricity.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 9 Apr. 2016, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/venezuela-energy-crisis-president-tells-women-to-stop-using-hairdryers-and-go-with-natural-style-to-a6976246.html.
- Pardo, Daniel. “El Día Que Los Centros Comerciales De Venezuela Quedaron Desiertos Por Los Cortes De Luz.” BBC News, BBC, 10 Feb. 2016, http://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias/2016/02/160210_venezuela_centros_comerciales_dp.
- “Venezuela Introduces Two-Day Week to Deal with Energy Crisis.” BBC News, BBC, 27 Apr. 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-36145184.