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Global Warming and Climate Change in the Centreal Andes of Peru

Global Warming and Climate Change in the Central Andes of Peru

Nelson Figueroa, Director del Dia Del Pueblo, Member of Red Uniendo Manos, JH Peru

A reality that we are already living

In recent years our earth has been heating up.  Temperatures have been rising and as a result the snowcaps of our mountains, which we once considered eternal, are melting at an increasing pace. To give an example, our elders remember years ago that when traveling up the central highway into the Andes and crossing over the continental divide at Ticlio at an elevation of approximately 16,000 ft., the mountains were covered with snow year round. Now, the mountains are bare and brown.

Melting Caps

The melting of the ice caps in the central Andes will produce less water in the coming years. Photos: Nelson Figueroa

The temperature has increased due to our intense human activities that are changing the composition of the Earth´s atmosphere. Any change in the atmosphere leads to climate change and changes in the life of our planet.

What produces climate change?

One of the principle gases that causes climate change is Carbon Dioxide (CO2), which when increased in the atmosphere, together with other gases, causes the so-called greenhouse effect. Other gases are Methane and Nitrogen Oxide (N2). These greenhouse gases come from the use of fossil fuels such as petroleum and carbon as used by industrial factories, automobiles, the production of energy, and homes.

One of the ways to capture the greenhouse gases is realized by the forests that absorb carbon dioxide and free oxygen (the process of photosynthesis). Carbon accumulates in the trunk, branches, and leaves of the trees. This carbon can be released into the atmosphere however when trees are cut down or burned. Every year more than 13 million hectares of forests are cut down in the world.

Increased temperatures

Increased temperatures and the irrational destruction of our environment provokes disasters in our planet.

Peru is one of the most affected countries in the world

Peru is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the catastrophic effects of climate change for the following reasons: 1) It has low-lying costal areas. 2) It has arid and semi-arid areas; 3) It has zones that have high levels of atmospheric contamination; 4) It has mountain eco-systems; 5) It has zones exposed to flooding, drought, and desertification; 5) It has areas that are subject to natural disasters and forest lands exposed to deterioration.

The increase in natural disasters like torrential rains, landslides, prolonged droughts, forest fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, storms, cold-spells, hail, floods, glacial melting and others, have a greater effect on impoverished countries because they find themselves at greater risk and vulnerability. Climate change accentuates social and economic inequalities that exist as can be seen in increased food prices, the millions of people that are starving in the world, the millions of climate refugees, lack of water suffered by millions, and increased sickness (such as malaria which we are presently suffering from in Peru), and other adverse effects on humanity.

The lack of water

One of the consequences of global warming is the accelerated diminishing of fresh water. This occurs with the melting and drying of our water sources located in the highlands of the Andes. Water is a basic necessity of life for human beings, and it is linked to the life of towns and the development of humanity.  The Andean peoples of old looked for water and established their communities near sources of fresh and potable water. The first people who inhabited the central Andes established themselves by big sources of water and developed canals and subterraneous and open air aqueducts in order to control the water flow and use for agricultural purposes.

Today, the waters of our rivers are being affected by human activities, turning them into dead waters that harm plants, animals and human beings. The rivers are affected by the mining tailings, oil spills, the use of agro-chemicals, trash, black waters from cities, and chemical products from informal mining.

Mantaro River

The Mantaro River is contaminated with tons of trash each day by communities living on its shores, ultimately draining into the rivers of the Amazon. On the right, the Ichu River cuts across the city of Huancavelica, where trash accumulates and blocks the flow of water.

In recent years, the mining industry, the growth of cities, and oil drilling activity have contributed to the increase of contamination of our rivers in the Andes, the Amazon, and along the Coast.  Solid waste and toxic liquids from the majority of mining centers flow into the rivers, contaminating the waters so that they can no longer be used. In the case of the Mantaro River in the Central Andes, it has become almost a dead river whose waters carry high levels of heavy metals such as cadmium, lead, zinc, chrome, magnesium, iron and copper (products of mining activity in the high areas of the region). In the same way, sewage from almost all of the cities in the mountains and along the coast, find its way into the rivers and ocean, producing bacteriological contamination that affects our health.


The Yauli River carries contamination of mining tailings from mining activity high in the mountains, which ultimately gets dumped into the Mantaro River.

How should we respond?

In the face of these problems that make our earth suffer, we are called to urgent action. The first thing we must do is become conscious of this situation. Toward this end, the issues of global warming, climate change, contamination, and lack of water must be discussed within our homes, our neighborhoods, our schools and the media, and our consumption habits should change. Youth have a big responsibility in helping resolve a part of the problem by changing attitudes, habits and customs of the people in order to confront the challenges before us. But at the same time, we must also demand an authentic commitment from the countries who are the greatest contaminators, and the multinational companies that look for profit at the expense of the deterioration of our planet, and the politicians of the world so that they commit themselves to reducing greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming. Only in this way can we begin to avoid the dramatic consequences and irreversible damage of our planet.




Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

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