Global Warming and Drought in Bolivia
For weeks, hundreds of thousands of Bolivians have been stricken with drought, with some neighbourhoods receiving water for only three hours every three days. Armed forces drive tanks into affected communities, where families form long lines to collect water. The drought became so fierce recently that schools in three regions of the country decided to cut the school year short two weeks before summer break.
The country is in the midst of its worst drought in 25 years, as three reservoirs that supply its largest city, La Paz, are almost entirely dried up. For the first time, the government has put into effect water rationing, affecting more than 177,000 families across the country, Reuters reported. In response, the government has provided aid, including bottled water, to about 145,000 drought-stricken families, Reuters reported.
The severity of the drought escalated last week, when President Evo Morales declared a national state of emergency, insisting that Bolivians “have to be prepared for the worst.” And earlier this week, Chile’s government offered to provide humanitarian aid to help Bolivia confront the national emergency, El Deber reported.
Hospitals are working at half capacity, suspending non-emergency surgeries and dialysis, the Guardian reported. In the poor neighbourhoods of southern Sucre, taps have run dry for three weeks, and in the southern highlands, where most of the country’s quinoa is grown, the 2016 crop has been slashed in half. Cattle have been wiped out, and two of the country’s lakes have run completely dry.
Experts say the country’s water shortages are caused or exacerbated by rising temperatures and the El Niño weather phenomenon in the Pacific. Additionally, booming migration to the country’s largest cities has pressured resources, particularly water, and the country’s limited infrastructure has struggled to keep up. Environmental advocates also say the drought reveals the impact of large-scale agriculture and mining projects, which divert water supplies and contaminate lakes and other water sources, Reuters reported.