Saturday, April 18, 2009

Dwindling water in Peru

A story in a series on sustainable development by IPS (Inter Press Service) and IFEJ (International Federation of Environmental Journalists), for the Alliance of Communicators for Sustainable Development: The melting of glaciers resulting from climate change and the lack of adequate water management policies seem to be the main causes behind the water shortages that are fuelling conflicts in Peru. This warning is being sounded from a variety of sectors.

Nearly 50 percent of the 218 social conflicts recorded by the national ombudsman’s office as of February 2009 were triggered by socio-environmental problems, many of them related to water management issues, states the report "Water Faces New Challenges: Actors and Initiatives in Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia", published by the international anti-poverty organisation Oxfam on Mar. 20.

…Water is not only in short supply in Peru, but it is also poorly distributed in relation to the population. Seventy percent of the people live in the arid strip along the Pacific Ocean, where just 1.8 percent of the country's freshwater supply is found. Lima, on the coast, is home to eight million people, or 30 percent of the total population. It is the world's second largest city located in a desert, after Cairo in Egypt. It is estimated that between one million and two million people in the city do not have potable water.

Carmen Felipe-Morales, an engineering expert with the Institute of Water Promotion and Management, underscores the fact that Lima does not have a large enough water supply for its inhabitants.

…Peru's total glacier-covered area has shrunk from 2,042 square kilometres to 1,596 square kilometres in the last 30 years, says engineer Marco Zapata, head of the Glaciology and Water Resources Unit of the National Water Authority, in the northwest province of Huaraz. That is 446 square km fewer glaciers, which represents an estimated seven billion cubic meters of water - the equivalent of 10 years of water consumption in Lima.

…The rivers of the Peruvian coast originate in the mountains and are fed by the glaciers, yearly winter snowmelt and other precipitation at higher altitudes. "When the glaciers disappear, we will only have the water from rainfall," warned the expert….

The southwestern slope of the Nevado Huantsán (6395m), Peru, shot by Altiplano