The millions of spectators that flock to Brazil to revel in the nation’s famous carnaval, scheduled to begin Friday, February 13th, may be disappointed to learn that this year’s festivities have been downsized, or cancelled altogether in many localities. Amid concerns of Brazil’s ongoing drought, at least 15 cities and towns in the southeastern states of Minas Gerais and Sao Paolo have already called off all or parts of the carnaval festivities. Though the carnaval will go on in Sao Paulo, many city counselors have advocated for its cancellation. Brasilia, the nation’s capital, will not host a carnival parade this year. Given the immense proportions and cultural significance of the carnaval, these measures are a huge blow to the Brazilian people.
The drought, which has been ongoing for the last year and is being reported as the worst in nearly a century, has left millions short of drinking water, withered crops, and cause blackouts in many areas. Brazil’s southeast region is the most adversely affected by the drought; it is also the nation’s wealthiest and most densely populated area. Conditions have worsened over the past few weeks as the southern hemisphere experiences the peak of the summer months.
Measures to downsize or cancel carnaval activities are an effort to reduce the strain of tourists visiting areas that are already strapped for water and to reduce or eliminate the usage of water during the street festivities. Traditionally, the giant parade floats created for the carnaval often use water features to enhance the floats. Cognizant of the water shortage, samba schools performing during the Rio carnaval have already made modification to their floats. Unidos do Viradouro, a participating samba school that will exhibit a 160-foot float honoring Brazil’s African heritage, revised its plan to have the float’s two water fountains spew 10,500 gallons of water continuously, to just 2,600 gallons intermittently. The float paraded by the União de Ilha do Governador samba school will create the effect of a gushing water fountain with lights and smoke, replacing the water it had planned to use. The schools hope these measures will demonstrate their sensitivity to the water shortage problem and motivate citizens to conserve water.
Financial woes have also played a role in the downsizing of the 2015 carnaval. Several of the blocos, popular street bands that can attract over 100,000 people, have had to cancel their events this year, citing a lack of sponsors who are willing to provide basic infrastructure for the popular events’ TV Globo, Brazil’s most prominent broadcaster has pulled out of a substantial part of its regular carnaval coverage, including the final Parade of Champions, citing a lack of sponsors. Without the support of media partners, broadcasting the full two days of parading and the grand finale was simply not unviable. Some have cited the upcoming 2016 Olympics to be at fault for cuts to carnaval expenditure.
At a time when political leaders have attempted to downplay the severity of the water crisis in Brazil, downsizing the carnival could prove an embarrassment to the federal government, which has demonstrated years of ineptitude and negligence in water management.
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