The reported loss of the Chacaltaya Glacier in Bolivia earlier this year could have bigger implications for Bolivia than first thought.
The glacier, which is thousands of years old, used to be a flagship location for skiers, boasting the highest ski lift in the world. Now however, as yet another example of the saddening effects of climate change and increasing temperatures on earth, it’s not only the loss of tourists that will affect the local people, but over the coming years, water shortages are likely to become an issue.
The water supplies for the cities of La Paz and El Alto come from reservoirs that are fed by rainfall, snow and meltwater from the glaciers. Researcher Dr. Edson Ramirez, has headed up a team of scientists who since 1991 have been studying the glacier. His original estimation had been that the glacier would last until 2015, however the speed at which it has melted has exceeded his expectations. Ramirez stated,
”Chacaltaya has disappeared. It no longer exists. It’s very probable that other glaciers are disappearing faster than we thought.”
Cities therefore cannot even rely on the meltwater and snow run-off from Illimani and Huayna Potosi glaciers long term, and with less rain falling that usual in the Andes because of changes to the monsoon rains that could previously be relied on, the area is being hit with a double-whammy of climate change induced problems to deal with.