The Peruvian government is preparing for a “complicated situation” with the coming of El Niño, the country’s Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation Juan Manuel Benites Ramos said at a press conference, as some analysts questioned the government’s readiness to deal with the dangerous weather phenomenon.
The cyclical weather pattern has previously caused heavy flooding in Peru, killing hundreds and displacing thousands more. El Niño triggers increased rainfall over the Andes as the Pacific seas temperatures fluctuate.
With a new season of El Niño beginning, the government has allocated over US$1 billion to developing preventative measures.
Benites-Ramos stated that "the government is preparing for a complicated situation” and will be ready to respond to any emergency.
“Based on what happened in 1982 to 1983 and in 1997 to 1998 and additional intense rain scenarios, we have 14 regions at risk," the minister said, adding that since “July of this year we declared those 14 regions under emergency.”
Benites-Ramos also stated that US$750 million was spent last year in preventative measures and anothe US$250 million this year. He also stated that there is an additional US$500 million loan available if the situation requires it.
The government however is being questioned on whether or not the country is prepared to handle the risks particularly for those citizens living in high-risk areas in the north of the country close to rivers or in regions with hills.
Analysts claim preventative measures should have started earlier such as relocating people, creating rain drainage systems, and establishing a coordinated plan with local authorities.
Sergio Álvarez Gutiérrez, specialist in Disaster Management says the construction of infrastructure and reinforcements for buildings should have started last year.
“That would have been ideal,” the specialist said. “Now we are working against time and if conditions are not right or if suddenly rains come earlier than expected, it would be difficult. That is part of the lessons we learned and we have to lived with in 1997 and 1998."
The current government and its critics are in agreement that the country should have a permanent planning unit, preventive activities, and a set budget for reducing the risk of large disasters in the future. In 1997 to 1998, Peru lost 6.2 percent of its GDP due to El Niño and 11 percent in 1982 to 1983.