30 July 2011
Source: Cool Earth
As Peru's newly elected President - Ollanta Humala - took office this week, national newspapers raised concerns about the effects of global warming on the country, particularly its glaciers and ability to provide the most basic of commodities - fresh water.
This may seem strange for the country which boasts the source of the world's largest river - the Amazon, through which constantly flows around 20% of the planet's fresh water resource. The Pacific coastline of Peru, however, is one of the driest deserts in the Americas and also happens to be where half the population are clustered. Furthermore, significant investments have and continue to be implemented in massive irrigation projects, some even tunnelling through the Andes to bring water from the Amazon watershed into the coastal desert strip.
Evidence of the problem stares tourists and locals in the face in Peru's fabled alpine region, the Cordillera Blanca (White Mountain Range) which possesses a string of once mighty and crystalline glaciers, many reaching to well over 6,000m (19,500ft).above sea level. In the last 40 years, the Cordillera Blanca's glaciers have been reduced from a surface area of around 750km² to perhaps less than 500km² - close to a 30% loss.
"The glaciers are retreating by up to 20m a year," claims Benjamin Morales Arao, representative of Peru's Museum of the Mountain. Sr. Morales blames the emissions of green house gases from industry for the demise of the glaciers.
Sr. Cesar Portocarrero - Coordinator for the Glaciology Unit within Peru's National Water Authority - says that he sees the process of glacial retreat as unstoppable. "Climate Change is influencing the hydrological resource which is the basis of life," he suggests.