Anders Bekeken

100 Places To Remember: Quelccaya Ice-Cap Peru

Geschreven op 24-5-2010 - Erik van Erne. Geplaatst in Natuur Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Dwindling Ice at the Top of the Andes. The Quelccaya Ice-Cap is an awe-inspiring sight, with its massive ice fields and blue-white glaciers. Spanning 44 square kilometres in the Cordillera Oriental Mountain Range in southern Peru, it is the largest body of ice in the tropics.

The ice has claimed these Andean peaks and fed the streams and rivers below for thousands of years. The vast quantities of ice have provided scientists with data about precipitation and temperatures going back 1,500 years, enabling them to calculate annual snowfall since the time of the early Andean civilisations.

Glacial runoff from the Quelccaya Ice-Cap is vital for much of the Peruvian population. Farmers use it for irrigation and dams, and hydroelectricity plants supply drinking water and power to major cities such as Cuzco and Lima.

An estimated two million people out of the capitals population of almost nine million have no access to free and fresh water. They are forced to pay high prices for it and will be the first to feel the effects of shortages.

The Quelccaya ice-cap is no longer an inexhaustible resource. Since 1978, it has lost 20% of its area, and the rate of the decrease is accelerating. The once steady flow of water is now intermittent, and within 30-50 years the Quelccaya ice cap is expected to have disappeared as a consequence of global warming, leaving millions of Peruvians without a reliable source of water and the Andean peaks without cover.

Lima, 15 km from the Pacific coast, is the second largest desert city in the world after Cairo in Egypt. On the outskirts of Lima, shanty towns stretch far along the plains, eventually climbing the barren mountainsides. Many impoverished inhabitants of the mountain regions, mainly indigenous Aymara and Quechua people, move to the coastal cities in search of better lives.
When a shanty town house is first built, it is fashioned from bamboo mats, which are eventually replaced by wood and corrugated iron. Depending on the fortunes of the family, the wooden house may one day be converted into bricks and mortar.

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