Latijns-Amerika magazine.

Lake Uru Uru between drought and pollution

22-02-2017 door Marai El Fassi, Uriel Montúfar

The Uru Uru is a fairly young lake, formed by the overflow of the Desaguadero River at its opening into the Lake Poopó. This formation dates from 1962, has a length of 21 km, a width of 16 km, and a surface area of ​​214 km ² at an altitude of about 3686 msnm.

At the end of 2016 it was reported that Uru Uru (third largest lake of Bolivia in volume) had disappeared, due to drought, diversion of water for agricultural and industrial purposes, global warming and pollution of the mines. The causes are similar to the disappearance of Lake Poopo. This situation that forced its animals to migrate or die due to water and food scarcity, filled the villagers with despair. They see that their livelihoods escape from the hands.

Today, to reach the river from the small town of ​​Machaqmarka, we must cross an immense field full of garbage. A villager tells us that the quantity of plastic bottles and other waste comes washed up by mines and settlements nearby. Pollution in the area is alarmingly strong, and has already created a totally unusable area. It seems that the people who live near that landfill like area that extends until the horizon, not knowing where it might stop, are the same people that depend on the mining activities for the income and makes them into silent mining tolerates, companions of the pollution. There are no plans or solutions. The dump seems to exist unnoticed, we hear no claims.

When we reached the shore of what was the lake, we see that the water level has dropped tremendously. Nevertheless we notice that that thanks to the recent rains, the Uru Uru has recovered almost 40% of its normal level. The villager indicates that two weeks ago, before the rains finally started, the area was completely dried out. However, with the rains came life and with it that – hope for the people who depend on the lake.


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