“You told me once of the plants that lie dormant through the drought, that wait, half-dead, deep in the earth. The plants that wait for the rain. You said they’d wait for years, if they had to; that they’d almost kill themselves before they grew again. But as soon as those first drops of water fall, those plants begin to stretch and spread their roots. They travel up through the soil and sand to reach the surface. There’s a chance for them again.”
Author: Lucy Christopher
I walked along the bed of Lake Cocibolca listening to the exhausted earth groan. Her bed is disheveled, scattered with tiny puddles of what once had been the life force of her grand body.
The exposed lake bed lay panting in the relentless and monotonous burning sun. Spirals of heat rise from the parched ground as if from molten lava from Concepcion Volcano who watches from afar.
Shells and snails are cruelly exposed as if their blanket of water has been ripped away leaving them helpless and defenseless against the scorching heat.
Only embedded hoof prints remain as a clue that there were cows wandering the mud flats in their never-ending quest for fresh water.
Thanks to the irrigation pumps dotted along the lake bed, the farmers who are fortunate to own land close to the lake can throw garments of fertility on their plantains, fruit trees, and other crops temporarily dressing their crops in lush greenery.
Punta Jesus Maria, a popular tourist area shown in the distance of the photo below, has a narrow strip of sand, which usually measures about three meters wide and half a mile long, but now is more than five meters wide and over a thousand meters long.
I watch the extensions of PVC pipe stretch their jointed arms farther into the quickly shrinking lake.
This year it is particularly difficult for the farmers. The lake is receding rapidly. It is our third year of drought. Their pumps and pipes are moved farther and farther to greet the shallow water. Are their crops on borrowed time?
Birds call out like beggars pleading for water.
Near the water’s edge, terns and herons chatter and screech…when will the rains begin??
They race along the shallow mud flats in search of food which is getting scarcer.
Hot sand blows into the eyes of the cattle led to the water.
A quick drink will have to suffice until tomorrow morning.
Wearily, the cattle return to their scorched fields, udders hanging limply, while the less than satiated cows trudge along the lake floor, shrunken and muddy.
The women now stand ankle-deep in the shallows of Lake Cocibolca, beating their laundry against the rocks that once rippled and danced in the water. The women now walk 500 meters to reach their laundry platforms, which have been moved farther into the lake to find deeper water. Maria Reyes German Alvarez, 73, said he has forty years of living on the coast of Lake Nicaragua, near the dock of Moyogalpa, noting that although the lake every year in the summer has low level, this year it has gone too far.
A haphazard game of soccer takes place on the lake bed when the sun begins to set giving all a hardy sigh of relief.
Tomorrow, the cows will return to the muddy flats again, the dogs and other critters will cringe under the scanty shade of the trees, and we will all wait…wait for the rain to deliver us from the oppressive heat each day…wait for the rain to shower us with flowers and lush green grass once again.
Yet, the dry season does gift us with some wonderful sunsets. This was a triple gift.
The article in La Prensa, At Risk: Ometepe Travel, describes how the low water levels of Lake Cocibolca hinder the departure and arrival of the boats to the docks. One of the ferries damaged its propeller trying to dock. Although the National Port Company maintains one permanent dredger, it is difficult because the path through the lake needs continuous dredging. If the National Port Company does not bring more dredgers, water transport to Ometepe could become paralyzed in a few weeks.
The ferry captains have reported that unless the National Port Company provides more dredgers, all ferry transport will be halted in 15 days. There are still two more months of drought, so this will be a tragedy without transport off or on the island.
Experts consulted by the press this week to explain the loss level of the two great lakes of Nicaragua: Nicaragua and the Xolotlán, report that there are several environmental factors that are causing this phenomenon.
A severe widespread drought since 2014 by the climatic phenomenon El Niño, rising temperatures cause evaporation of water in the current dry season, plus decades of deforestation of watersheds around the two large lakes, are generating the drought phenomenon in lakes.
Every day the ferries transport six hundred passengers between San Jorge and Ometepe Island, according to estimates by the National Ports. There is a fleet of ten ships of which four can transport vehicles both commercial and private. The weight of the crafts demand a minimum depth of ten feet to maneuver without difficulty. However, some carriers in some areas of the docks where the water reaches depths of just two feet, puts the boats at risk.
And what really astounds me is the idiotic plan to build a gigantic canal through our lake. At this time, a road would be easier to build across the lake bottom.
And so we wait. We wait for the rains that will nourish and gift us with life, health, and transport again.