Life Without Water in La Paz

A series of ‘Foto Friday’ posts focusing on the lives of people living in extreme poverty around the world. Over 1 billion people across the globe live on the equivalent of less than $1 a day to meet all their needs. Being more aware of the lives of the world’s poor can help  us reevaluate the extent of our own hardships and build empathy and compassion.

Bolivia is the poorest country in South America, and it’s cities are also some of the most water stressed in the world. The situation is often even worse in rural areas, drought and the melting of mountain glaciers used as water sources, driving large numbers of rural farmers into the rapidly growing cities – further adding to the demand for water.

Civil unrest occurred in parts of Bolivia in 2000 (sometimes referred to as ‘the water wars‘ ) following the privatization of water supplies and subsequent large increases in charges, which left many poorer communities without water. The water supply was renationalised with the election of a new President, and the cost of water reduced again, but the underlying issue remains – Bolivia, along with many countries in the world, is rapidly running out of water.

 

Photo from Szeke

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The Aral Sea

Before the 1980s the world’s fourth largest inland lake was the Aral Sea, on the border of  Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. At around 68,000 square kilometres, it was nearly the same size as Ireland, complete with thousands of islands, thriving fishing communities and the lakeside cities of Muynak and Aral’sk.

Buy the late 1960s huge amounts of water were being diverted from the Aral sea for the irrigation of Soviet cotton fields, which also continued in the post-Soviet era. By 2008 the Aral sea had largely disappeared, with less than 10% remaining, compared to its original size.

The rusting hulks of former fishing vessels now sit in the desert, miles from the nearest water.

Salinity in the water that remains has massively increased, and much of the surrounding area is badly affected by pollution from former agriculture and industry, with large dust storms also now common.

But since 2005 a limited recovery has been underway for the northern Sea area, following the construction of a new dam, with funding from the World Bank. Unfortunately no similar improvement is taking place in the south.

 

 Photo by Staecker, via Wikicommons