Too much sun in the Caribbean?

Bert Wilkinson | 10/15/2015, 2:40 p.m.

Browse through any magazine or website relating to the Caribbean and you will find that the region usually promotes itself as a place where tourists can enjoy sun, sand and the sea, but in recent months, governments and tourism industry officials are ironically complaining bitterly about too much sun and its effects on economies.

Drought conditions persist from Guyana and Suriname on the northern tip of continental South America to as far north as Jamaica, Puerto Rico and Hispaniola while also taking in the Eastern Caribbean grouping of countries such as St. Lucia and Antigua.

Weather experts are calling this one of the worst prolonged dry spells to have hit the tourism-dependent region in more than a decade. Many are even more worried because the forecast is set for a year of the dreaded El Nino dry weather phenomenon, meaning that the drought, dried up reservoirs, forest and grass fires, as well as searing temperatures, will persist for a few more months yet.

Guyana, the headquarter nation of the 15-nation Caribbean single market trading grouping, last week became the latest member state to declare a drought emergency. Its emergency management unit was forced to rush water and other supplies to desperate indigenous Amerindian communities near the border with Brazil as wells dried up, crops failed and economic depression stepped in among its so-called “first people.” Grass and forest fires are also beginning to pop up, and weather experts are unsure if the normally brutal year-end rains will come in full force as usual this year.

The 22,000-square-mile region is so dry that residents are now walking over normally swollen rivers to Brazil. The prices of vegetables and fruits on the faraway coast are beginning to rise as dry weather bites. Regional spokesman Randy Gilbert called for help “to get deeper wells. The wells we currently have are too shallow, and not all communities have them so we really need to look at this,” he told a visiting emergency team from the capital.

Global experts say the 2015 situation is worsened by the presence of an abnormal amount of dust in the South Atlantic area and a lack of precipitation to trigger rainfall. The state of affairs across the region has been exacerbated by a milder-than-normal 2015 hurricane season, as rains from storms usually replenish dried up reservoirs at times when there is too much sun in a region, which normally invites tourists to leave bitter winters and enjoy the warmth of the Caribbean.

In Jamaica, folks in some rural areas have complained about feeling sick from water trucked into communities by authorities, and commercial fish farmers have murmured about huge losses from dried up ponds.

Barbados, Grenada and St. Lucia have all railed about extremely low rainfall in their traditional rainy season, and so has the weather service in Trinidad. The result is that agricultural and aqua production have fallen in all the countries affected by a drier than usual 2015.