A lagoon in the southern part of the Andes has dried up completely as the mountain region and the people living in it are struggling through a years-long drought.
Various parts of the Andes, one of the world’s longest mountain ranges that passes through six countries in Central and South America, are suffering under lengthy droughts that have changed the landscape. The southern parts of the range are facing a dire situation, as three repeated La Niña patterns have combined with the longer-term impacts of climate change to create a catastrophically dry spell.
State of Emergency
Late last month, the Peruvian government declared a state of emergency due to the drought for more than 100 communities in the Andes, as the dry conditions have caused damage to crops and livestock. The government said that the most hard-hit areas, which include places in the southern region, are under a state of emergency “due to imminent danger from water shortage,” the AFP reported.
Driest Month in 58 Years
According to Senamhi, Peru’s national weather forecasting service, November was the driest month in 58 years in various places throughout the Andes. Several weather stations recorded “unprecedented” rainfall deficits last month, the service reported.
Indigenous Populations Suffering
Peru’s population is 45% Indigenous peoples, and the Andes region is home to the largest Indigenous population in the country. The prolonged drought has been devastating to many of these groups who have suffered crop and animal losses thanks to the lack of water.
Food Will Be Scarce
In the Cconchaccota community, where the AP photographed the drying lagoon, residents have seen only two days with rain for the past eight months — a recent rain prompted them to set out bowls to collect the water. The drought has delayed planting potatoes, the village’s main crop, and many expect food to be scarce as a result.
Water Sources Drying Up
The lagoon was a key water source for sheep in Cconchaccota, as well as a source of fish. Residents say that their appeals to local authorities for help went unanswered for two months. Drinking water from a spring near the lagoon has also been scarce recently.
Praying for Change
In the Bolivian Andes to the south, people living in rural areas are facing similar challenges as the dry land has prevented them from planting crops. In November, Reuters spoke with members of a community near the city of La Paz who climbed the foothills and joined together to pray for rain.
“When we raise our hands, we ask God to forgive our sins and to ask for rain for our crops,” farmer Alberto Quispe told Reuters. “In the fields we don’t have water, nor for the cattle.”
In Cconchaccota, a woman at a prayer service told the AP that the drought was a sign of the end of the world.
‘The Climate Is Changing’
The lagoon and others high in the Andes drying up “has to put [people living in the region] on notice that times are changing,” Wilson Suárez, professor of mountain hydrology and glaciology at Peru’s La Molina National Agrarian University, told the AP. “A drought is not easy to handle … the climate is changing.”
Climate Migration Is High
According to the UN, Peru is one of the countries that faces the possibility of a high amount of people moving elsewhere due to climate change, as droughts, floods, sea level rise, and other impacts ravage its coastline and interior ecosystems. The UN estimates that more than 600,000 people left Peru between 2008 and 2019 because of natural disasters, and levels of climate migrants could reach “unprecedented levels” by the end of the century.
A study published last year in Earth Systems and Environment predicted that if global greenhouse gas emissions continue unchecked, the average temperature in South America could rise by as much as 7 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius), increasing the risks of droughts and wildfires.
Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.
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