September 21, 2010

World’s highest big lake approaching drought conditions

Massive and majestic, the world’s largest high-altitude lake, Lake Titicaca, is approaching crisis point as its water levels are now only 15cm (6 inches) away from triggering emergency management in the two countries that share its perimeter – Bolivia and Peru.

Located at 3827m (12,557 feet) above sea level up in the Andes, the waters of Titicaca have been dropping by 1cm a week for some time, according to Jorge Espinosa, Director of the Bolivian Naval Hydrology Division. Blame has been cast on a series of severe droughts experienced in this part of the Andes over the last few years.

The lake is vital for the local economy, not just for its fish and reed resources, but also as one of South Americas most important tourist attractions. Indigenous communities live on some of the astonishingly beautiful islands located within the lake’s 8,300 km² (3,200 square miles) of surface area, some of these, the Urus people, even inhabit floating islands composed of reeds piled upon reeds.

Although very large, at its deepest the lake is usually only around 284m (931ft) deep. Nevertheless, it is used by ocean sized boats trading between the two nations and for tourism. On the Peruvian side, Titicaca has been a National Reserve since 1978, possessing over 60 varieties of birds, 14 species of native fish and 18 different types of amphibians. Local people and Municipalities are praying for the rainy season to start soon, typically this begins in September.



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