Updated 03:26 AM EST, Sat, Jan 22, 2022

Bolivia’s Second Largest Lake Now a Dry Wasteland [Causes & Effects]

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Bolivia's second-largest lake is now a dry wasteland with no hopes of ever rebounding back to life.

Lake Poopó, located in a shallow depression 12,000 feet high in the Altiplano Mountains in southwest Bolivia, was officially declared evaporated last December, NBC News reported. The salt lake has dried up several times in the past, but it returned to twice the area of Los Angeles. Scientists, however, said that such a rebound may be impossible now.

"This is a picture of the future of climate change," said Dirk Hoffman, a German glaciologist, as quoted by the news outlet. Hoffman studies how increasing temperatures from the burning of fossil fuels has sped up glacial melting in the country.

One of the major causes of Lake Poopó's drought is the intermittent El Niño meteorological phenomenon, NBC News further reported. According to authorities, another factor is the diversion of water from the lake's tributaries, majorly for mining and agriculture.

Also considered responsible for Lake Poopó drying out is the misuse of the water supply, said Lisa Borre, a senior researcher with the Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies in New York, as reported by National Geographic. The Bolivian government's failure to address existing management plans is to be blamed as well.

"The lake was very shallow, only a few feet deep, and it is in an arid climate, so its level fluctuates a lot with the weather, but it's never been this bad," said Borre, as quoted by National Geographic.

Borre continued, "The Bolivian government is blaming El Niño and climate change, and certainly those played a role, but they are not saying that they have also failed to implement the management plan for the basin."

Lake Poopó receives most of its water supply from the Desaguadero River, which flows from Lake Titicaca, Bolivia's largest lake, the news outlet wrote. The management plan indicated that water managers are expected to allow water to flow down the river into Poopó, but just recently, the flow has been slowed.

Borre said that officials aren't opening control gates regularly to propel water down the river, National Geographic added. When water is available, there are plenty of times when sedimentation clogs the river due to the runoff from the area's development and mining activities.

Angel Fores, the leader of the local citizens' group that tried to recover Poopó, said that mining firms have been diverting water since 1982, NBC News reported.

To save the lake, Bolivian President Evo Morales' administration has requested $140 million from the European Union. The funding will be for water treatment plants for the Poopó watershed and to dredge tributaries from the Desaguadero.

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