As I’ve talked about in previous posts, I’ve been doing a lot for Monocle magazine recently. My latest piece is here for their Monocolumn, the magazine’s daily postcard from somewhere in the world.
I wrote on São Paulo and the almost biblical rains that have pounded the city over the last few months.
The statistics tell their own story. The second half of 2009 was the rainiest six-month period in the city’s history. The months of January and December were second and third on the rainiest month list, drowned out only by December 1947. Rainfall in December was 77 % above the monthly average; rainfall in January was 87 % above the norm. It has rained in São Paulo on every one of the last 47 days.
The reasons are both natural and man-made. El Niño has warmed waters in the Pacific, and warmer waters are also circulating on the Atlantic side of the country. That has increased humidity. Warm fronts of humid air from Amazonia are also a factor.
And even more than most big cities, São Paulo is concretesville. It never ceases to amaze me how Brazilian architects have taken the greenest country on the planet and made it grey, Oscar Niemeyer being the biggest culprit among them (but more on that another time).
In São Paulo, there are few trees and fewer lawns. Plants can absorb up to 20 percent of rainfall, easing the burden on the drainage systems. In Sampa, the water falls on concrete and runs into drains that are often clogged and into rivers that can’t cope.
Even the marginals Tietê and Pinheiros, the vast rivers turned fetid canals that split great swathes of the city have burst their banks, flooding railways and roads and leaving commuters stranded.
My story concentrates on Jardim Romano, a poor neighbourhood in the far north of the city, parts of which have been under water for two months. These brilliant photos from the Estado de São Paulo newspaper blog are worth many thousands of words.