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    Cuba on edge as drought worsens
    HAVANA | BY MARC FRANK

    Cuba put its civil defense system on alert on Monday due to a year-long
    drought that is forecast to worsen in the coming months and has already
    damaged agriculture and left more than a million people relying on
    trucked-in water.

    From Cuba’s famous cigars to sugar, vegetables, rice, coffee and beans,
    the drought is damaging crops. It has slowed planting and left one in 10
    residents waiting for government tank trucks to survive in record summer
    heat.

    The country’s civil defense system said the drought, record heat and
    water leakage have led to “low levels of available water for the
    population, agriculture, industry and services.”

    The government has not provided a national breakdown of drought damage
    but it said on Monday that emergency measures were being taken at all
    levels, including stricter rationing of water through the state-run
    waterworks.

    Communist-run Cuba loses around 50 percent of the water pumped from its
    reservoirs due to leaks. There is little irrigation of farm land and the
    systems that exist are outdated and inefficient.

    Drought conditions across the Caribbean, caused by the phenomenon known
    as El Nino, have left reservoirs at 37 percent of capacity.

    Cuban authorities appear increasingly alarmed by the situation, which
    could lead to wider rationing in major cities and hard choices on where
    water should be allocated with winter planting, the tourism season and
    sugar milling all beginning in November.

    “The drought is everyone’s problem and so every state entity has to …
    create a plan immediately,” Chapman Waught, who heads Cuba’s waterworks,
    said last week as she toured the country.

    This year’s rainy season, which includes the hurricane season, is
    forecast to bring rains well below the norm due to El Nino.

    It has been seven years since a hurricane, which on average hits Cuba
    every other year, has swept along the island, dumping much-needed
    torrential rains along with inevitable damage.

    Hurricane Sandy cut a narrow path across parts of eastern Cuba in 2012.

    “It is hard to believe, but many of us are hoping for a hurricane,” said
    Nuris Lopez, a hairdresser in eastern Granma province where residents
    receive a bit of water once a week and otherwise rely on tanker trucks.

    “I might lose my roof, but at least I could clean my house,” she said.

    (Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Dan Grebler)

    Source: Cuba on edge as drought worsens | Reuters –
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/08/17/us-cuba-drought-idUSKCN0QM1P220150817

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