Monday, December 13, 2010

As Andean glaciers recede, region steps forward to adapt

Emilio Godoy in IPS via Tierramérica: The mountainous areas of South America's Andean nations supply water to the coastal cities, provide habitat to important biodiversity, and serve as natural barriers, but global warming threatens those regions, which are home to millions of people. "It is clear that the glaciers are receding, and some communities can see that the climate is changing. Precipitation is more unstable, and in the cities along the coast face water supply problems," Peru's Environment Minister Antonio Brack told Tierramérica.

In Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Chile, the glaciers are a principal source of freshwater, and as they shrink, it means less water is available for the cities in the valleys and on the coast. Peru's total area of mountain ice fields has decreased 22 percent in the last 35 years, with a 12-percent reduction in the volume of water, according to that country's National Environmental Council.

To confront the threats hanging over the Andes, the region's nations have formed a consortium for sustainable development, CONDESAN, a member of the Mountain Partnership, created in 2002. To date, 50 countries, 16 intergovernmental organisations and 107 civil society groups make up the Partnership, which has the support of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

"We are implementing programmes to prevent fires in the highlands, to preserve wetlands, and to improve freshwater systems management," Marco Chiu, Ecuador's deputy minister for climate change, told Tierramérica. The protection of mountainous areas was a key issue at the 16th Conference of Parties (COP 16) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which took place Nov. 28 to Dec. 10 in the Mexican resort city of Cancún.

In the arid regions of Central Asia, Chile, Argentina and Peru, where there is little precipitation, the receding glaciers will have a much greater impact on water availability than in Europe or other Asian regions….

Urubamba, the sacred valley of the Incas, in Peru. The photo was taken in 2002 by Håkan Svensson (Xauxa).Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

1 comment:

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