PERU’S WATER PROBLEMS

In today’s world, global warming is an inconvenient truth. For Peru it is an alarming reality. The rapid melting of the once spectacular Andean glaciers has become a very big threat to Peru which is situated in the tropics. The ice sheets which are expected to last for centuries could disappear in just two or three decades, threatening total water supplies. The most unpredictable climatic changes in the Peruvian region are set to turn an already rough ride into an impossible one. It is all because of the existing environmental abuse.

Peru’s water problems are also due to the peculiar geography of the country. Its coastline is home to one of the driest deserts in the world. It almost never rains and the recorded heavy rains in the region were 35 years ago. Most of the pacific coast would remain a desert if it was not for the flowing waters from the Andes. More than 70% of the total country’s population of 28 million people live along the Pacific coast, where less than 2% of the country’s water resources are found. In contrast, the Atlantic side of the Andes has 98% of the water and about a quarter of the population. Much of their water supply is on the wrong side of the wall.

The drastic melting of the Andes has been forcing farmers to farm at even higher altitudes to grow their crops, resulting in deforestation, which in turn leads to soil erosion and other environmental problems. Hence the snow and rainfall patterns in the Peruvian region have not only been less predictable but also have been more extreme.

Losing all the glaciers and snow on the Andes Mountains will be a big loss for Peru. The only solution it can think of now is to build many huge reservoirs in the water flowing regions and valleys. But, which valleys will they choose to flood? Where will the people living in those valleys go? From where and how will Peru, a poor country, find the investment for such expensive projects? The country’s energy situation is also at a high risk. 80% of its electric power is generated from hydroelectric operations and if there is immense water shortage, then they will have to switch to using fossil fuels to produce its electricity. Most of the water companies providing water are all state owned and they are very poorly maintained and run. It is found that more than 40% of available water is not billed because of unauthorized connections and leakages.

The present Government has decided to offer private investors long term contracts, to operate some of the state owned water companies. Many players have agreed to support the cause, but, all said and done, it is difficult to go against nature and still win. This problem of the glacial retreat is so fast that in a very short time, it’s possible the glaciers will disappear and there will be a problem of a lack of water for our future generations. It will be very sad because where there is water there is life and where there is no water, there is no life. Should we wait for another ice age to come?