- Title: Inidigenous Uru way of life threatened by climate change
- Date: 5th December 2016
- Summary: POOPO LAKE, BOLIVIA (RECENT - DECEMBER 1, 2016) (REUTERS) DRY LAKE WITH BOAT SHINING BECAUSE OF SUN FACE OF PUNACA MAYOR DOMINGO FLORES LOOKING AT DRY LAKE VARIOUS OF DRY POOPO LAKE AND FLORES WALKING IN AREA WHERE HIS BOATS USED TO BE PUNACA, BOLIVIA (RECENT - DECEMBER 1, 2016) (REUTERS) WIDE OF PUNACA WITH BUILDINGS AND HOUSES (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) GREGORIA FLORES, URU INDIGENOUS WOMAN, SAYING: "The men have gone far away. We take care of the children here. There are no jobs here; that's why they went far away, to work. They take and they go. That's why we women are here alone." VARIOUS OF URU WOMEN WITH CHILDREN (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) DANIEL MAURICIO, ELDERLY URU MAN, SAYING: "We used to live off of hunting, fishing and gathering. Our food was fish. But we no longer have that. The lake is completely dry." VARIOUS OF HOUSE OF ELDERLY URU MAN, DANIEL MAURICIO, HIS WIFE AND SON WHO CAME TO VISIT (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) DANIEL MAURICIO, ELDERLY URU MAN, SAYING: "Poopo Lake is producing salt. In 1977, we would produce crystalline salt there. We could take it to the city of Oruro to sell it. But now the tests say that that salt is contaminated with minerals." VARIOUS OF URU CHILDREN AT WELL GATHERING TRICKLE OF WATER WHICH HAS SALT VARIOUS OF URU CHILDREN WASHING PLATES VARIOUS OF URU HOMES VARIOUS OF URU SHOWING TRADITIONAL HANDICRAFT WHICH IS THEIR ONLY ALTERNATIVE INCOME SOURCE VARIOUS OF LOCAL SCHOOL WHERE 25 STUDENTS ARE PARTICIPATING IN AN EVENT VARIOUS OF URU INDIGENOUS EATING IN COMMUNITY STUDENT'S CRAFT PROJECTS WITH BOLIVIAN AND CHILEAN FLAGS
- Embargoed: 20th December 2016 19:14
- Keywords: drought Poopo Lake Urus
- Location: POOPO LAKE AND PUNACA, BOLIVIA
- City: POOPO LAKE AND PUNACA, BOLIVIA
- Country: Bolivia
- Reuters ID: LVA0015BLZ803
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:The Uru people have historically lived high in the mountains of western Bolivia, on floating reed islands and the shores of Poopo (poo-POH) Lake. But climate change has caused their once glistening lake to turn into parched earth and turned these traditional fishermen into climate refugees.
As Mayor Domingo Flores looks out at what used to be the landlocked country's second largest lake at almost 28 square kilometers, after Lake Titicaca, he laments the changes that have occurred in his community.
What was once a people who numbered 636, according to the 2012 Bolivian census, have now dwindled to 143, according to National Statistics Office CONNIOB.
Most residents are women, children or the elderly.
One of those women, Gregoria Flores, explains that the lake provided the sole source of food and work. Without it, the men have had to go looking for work in other areas.
"The men have gone far away. We take care of the children here. There are no jobs here; that's why they went far away, to work. They take and they go. That's why we women are here alone," she explained.
The area has been ravaged by the effects of climate change.
A prolonged drought came to a head in late 2014 with a massive dying off of local animal life. The death toll among fish has been estimated in the millions, stretched out across some 10 kms (six miles).
Daniel Mauricio, an elderly Uru, said he remembers when the men could rely on hunting to supplement fishing, but that is no longer possible.
"We used to live off of hunting, fishing and gathering. Our food was fish. But we no longer have that. The lake is completely dry," he said.
Decades of local mining have contributed to the problem, causing the little available well water to be contaminated.
"Poopo Lake is producing salt. In 1977, we would produce crystalline salt there. We could take it to the city of Oruro to sell it. But now the tests say that that salt is contaminated with minerals," added Mauricio.
Many of the men now work in nearby salt mines where the mineral is sold in the nearest city of Oruro.
They send money back home and travel to see their families on a regular basis.
The women supplement their income by making traditional handicrafts of reed. But the paltry income has not been enough to sustain the community.
In view of such devastation, Bolivian lawmakers approved a measure in late 2014 declaring the lake a "disaster area," which meant resources would need to be allocated to clean up the area.
Since then, the 35 families living in Punaca have dwindled to 6.
For the four students who just graduated the local school, the future is uncertain as they decide whether to try to make a living in their ancestral community or move in search of a job.
The landlocked South American country has a long history of water shortages.
Bolivia was home to two water wars in 1999 and 2004 at the end of which control of water was handed over from private hands to the state.
The country is currently in the midst of its most severe drought in 25 years which has left 172 municipalities, or roughly half the country, suffering from a lack of water, according to the Environment Ministry.
Perhaps more disconcerting is that climate change has shrunk Bolivia's Andean glaciers between 30 and 50 percent since the 1970s and could melt many of them away altogether in coming years, according to several published science journals.
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