Peru Loses 40 Percent of its Andean Glaciers

Glaciers - Measuring ice

Measuring a glacier in the Cordillera Blanca

Peru’s government says that the country’s Andean glaciers have shrunk by more than 40 percent since the 1970s, state news agency Andina reported.

Judith Torres, a specialist on glaciers at Peru’s National Water Authority, ANA, said the government needs to adopt preventative measures in the face of natural disasters and to protect water resources.

Peru’s glaciers, which feed hydroelectric plants and irrigate several agricultural basins and key cities, are in the process of accelerated meltdown due to global warming.

Authorities and environmentalists have raised concerns about the impact of the melting glaciers on Peru’s dry, coastal region, where most of the country’s population lives. Britain’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research states that Peru is the third-most sensitive country when it comes to impacts of climate change on precipitation and water availability (Rosenberger, 2006).

“The management of water resources is more efficient when we have a better knowledge of our hydrological reality,” Torres said.

The ANA says that Peru has 2,679 glaciers that cover about 1,298 square kilometers, La Republica reported. Peru’s central Ancash region has the most number of glaciers, at 755, in the Cordillera Blanca, followed by the Vilcanota and Vilcabamba ranges in the central and southern Andes.  However, the national water authority says that 87 percent of the Cordillera Blanca glaciers have been affected.

Lima, the world’s second largest desert city after Cairo in Egypt and with a population of close to 10 million, relies mostly on non-glacial sources for its water —on 20 carefully regulated lakes in the Andean mountains of Lima, on the runoff from the Yuracmayo lake, and on the Rimac and Chillon rivers which drop in volume in the non-rainy season.  However, Lima’s water supply is seriously stretched because of the size of the population and which only some 80 percent have access to running water.

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