Brazil drought crisis linked to global climate change, minister says

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BRASILIA, July 8 (Reuters) - Brazil's Mines and Energy Minister Bento Albuquerque said on Thursday the country's current drought crisis is part of extreme dryness in many parts of the world, including the U.S. West Coast, and is linked to global climate change.

Water inflows at hydroelectric dams are at their lowest level in 91 years, according to the Mines and Energy Ministry, as many parts of the country have experienced extreme drought that also hurt agriculture and raises the risk of forest fires.

"The water crisis is not only happening here in Brazil. It's happening in the western and northwestern United States. California, for example, is living through one of its worst ever droughts as are other regions of the United States and parts of Asia," Albuquerque said in an online briefing with reporters.

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"And this is evidently a process of climate change."

Despite disruptions to hydroelectric plants amid the drought, Albuquerque said the government maintains its current plans to build more hydroelectric plants in the Amazon rainforest region.

Brazil and Bolivia, for example, are studying the possibility of a hydro plant on the Madeira river that runs through the Amazon.

The minister said government is also holding meetings with broad sectors of the economy to discuss how to cut down on water usage voluntarily.

The government's decision last week to reduce outflows from hydroelectric dams in light of the crisis remains unchanged and is being implemented smoothly, Albuquerque added.

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Reporting by Jake Spring; Editing by Leslie Adler and Aurora Ellis

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