Lake Poopó, the second largest lake in Bolivia, has dried up in an astonishingly short time of three years, from 2013-2016.
Water diversion and especially global climate change have sucked the water out of this ancient lake.
Experts assure that global warming has been the most prominent cause for the lake’s disappearance. Its muddy waters have warmed up 0.41 degrees farenheit each decade since 1985, resulting in a fatal slow evaporation.
The consequence of this geographical happening is the mass migration of indigenous groups once dependent on the lake for income. Among them are the Uru Murato, or as they are regionally known, the ‘People of the Lake’.
The People of the Lake practiced a millenarian culture of fishing in the waters of lake Poopó. Once they took pride in their occupation, it being an important source of their identity. Now, they are climate refugees that have been forced to migrate to the salt lakes and land mines more than 200 miles away from their home.
This poses a big problem for president Evo Morales. He has been known to be a champion of indigenous rights, representing them as the country’s first indigenous president, and making an effort to reinforce their identity through measures such as the 2009 re-writing of the Constitution, which included a chapter dedicated to the rights owned by indigenous communities in Bolivia.
Now, the identity of the Uru Murato is under threat, and Evo Morales has part of the blame.
While no doubt climate change was a key factor leading to the lake’s dry-up, the water diversion from Lake Poopó was another important blow. It was ideated under government schemes with the purpose of sustaining the booming production of quinoa to meet international demand
It can be safely inferred that indirectly, Evo prioritised international demand over indigenous rights. He dismisses such claims with the statement that the dry-up is cyclical, assuring that “it is falsely said that the lake has dried up for the first time.”
Even worse, the Bolivian president directly dismissed the notion that the government had to do with it. “Now some of the opposition say that water is drying up because of the government’s fault. What a bunch of lies!”
While it is obvious that climate change delivered the fatal blow for this economic and social catastrophe, Evo’s administration had its share of responsibility. Climate change is thus threatening one of Morales’ biggest bargaining chip: his image as a champion for indigenous rights.
Pablo De Miguel Muñoz