International
The trickle of a once-potent river on the island of Anjouan, in the Comoros.Credit...Tommy Trenchard for The New York Times

‘There’s No More Water’: Climate Change on a Drying Island

A delicate ecosystem was disrupted in the Comoros, off East Africa, when forests were cleared to make way for farmland. The consequences offer lessons for other parts of the developing world.

COMOROSHundreds of brightly clad women flock to the banks of the river each week to scrub their way through bundles of laundry. Some of them travel hours from tiny villages to access a critical but increasingly endangered resource here on the island of Anjouan: water.

The island, part of the nation of the Comoros off the East African coast, receives more annual rainfall than most of Europe. But a combination of deforestation and climate change has caused at least half of its permanent rivers to stop flowing in the dry season.

Since the 1950s, the island has been clearing forests to make way for farmland and in the process disrupted a delicate ecosystem. With so many trees and plants cut down, the water they would normally collect and feed back into the ground and rivers is disappearing. Families in parts of the island now struggle to meet their domestic needs, and farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to irrigate their fields.

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