Climate crisis – a Bolivian lake, declared by the Ramsar site, is now a desert dump

Climate crisis – a Bolivian lake, declared by the Ramsar site, is now a desert dump

When you reach Lake Ouro, a few kilometers south of the Bolivian city of Oruro, no effort appears to be enough to halt the environmental degradation of these semi-arid wetlands reaching plastics, sewage and waste from nearby mining activities.

The disaster contradicts the almost forgotten Ramsar Declaration, An agreement on wetlands of international importance, which was established nearly twenty years ago after the recognition of Lake Ouro and its neighbor Bobo as an ecological rich area.

Uru Uru and Poopó have approximately 76 bird species, about 120,000 flamingos from three of the six classes found in the world, endemic plants and fish that served as a sustenance for the inhabitants of Urus, and which are believed to be one of the oldest on the continent.

Activist Limbirth Sanchez told Evie that Ouro Oro is practically a miracle of nature since it was formed in the middle of the last century by the overflow of the Desaguadero River, which comes from Lake Titicaca, in the north.

“Since 1955 the surplus (of Desaguadero) has formed,” until “there was a marine center” in the 1960s and 1970s, and since that time fish such as pejerrey, karachi and mauri have been grown. Which gave life to “seven hunting societies”.

Sanchez said that Ouro Oro is not very deep, in wet times it reached one and a half meters, however, the water mirror now occupies only 20 square kilometers out of 214 square kilometers, referring to the data of the office of the mayor of Ourorina.

Flash pollution

The most important point is the opening of the Tagaret canal, which is an open-air sewer that comes from the city of Oruro whose foul waters have brought countless waste spread over a span of more than a kilometer.

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Thousands of disposable bottles hitting the sun and seem to enjoy life with more or less heat while in the litter heap are old toys, used shoes and diapers, containers of all kinds, and even a multitude of dog skeletons.

Part of this garbage is on the surface while in previous years that accumulated under the sand like a disgusting black resin on the beach.

Sanchez notes that the lake’s water “contains heavy metals such as cadmium, zinc, arsenic and lead, including mercury,” and he laments acidic water waste from the San Jose mine that gets there.

The illustrious hunting in the area

“From the railroad down (west) it is suitable for fishing and from the railway above (the east) the water is completely polluted,” Felix Keyrouz, a fisherman who for many years has been an energetic local leader dedicated to claiming because of pollution.

This railway that was built many years ago exactly crosses the lake and separates the most polluted side from the non-polluted side.

Kayrouz entered the lake a few days ago, and in nearly ten hours of work, he only caught one silver side of no more than 15 cm when a few decades ago, prior to 1995, the year the degradation of the ecosystem, set the scale. It could be triple.

A small tourist shelter on the banks has been abandoned and is nothing more than a place to raise some pigs. In the one on the shore, there were many abandoned rafts because “the lake has disappeared,” one local resident told Effie who preferred not to be named.

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There are no structural solutions

In a notebook, Guillermo Quispe, director of environmental management in the Oruro Mayor office, wrote what was necessary to clean up the beach that had been converted into a 10-hectare landfill as a group of officials conducted a clean-up exercise.

He estimated that about 500 people would be needed, rubber gloves, shovels, shoes, several garbage bags plus several cargo trucks and at least one shovel tractor to remove all that garbage which, he said, was the product of another 8 to 10 months.

He told Efe, “The lake could disappear in five years,” It is necessary to “do this neat cleaning” and “the upstream networks system,” but it appears that the number of people and the data they are dealing with is insufficient or inaccurate.

Former leader Kirose said with certainty: “There are 240 hectares without taking into account Lake Oro Oro” affected by pollution, while Sanchez emphasizes that all that garbage accumulated years ago and not much has been done in it.

On the fringes of the most polluted part of the lake, you can see the feathers and remains of flamingos and other dead birds. Residents commented on this because they believed they were getting sick from the water pollution that had turned into a quagmire in those sectors.

The situation got volunteers, officials and politicians talking about doing a deep cleaning, unlike the cleaning that happened about eight years ago, but leaving trash deposits that were never collected.

However, it gives the impression that as long as the wastewater treatment plant is able to handle the waste and composting and recycling plants are enabled, the cleaning that takes place will remain insufficient.

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Aygen Marsh

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