Bo­li­via drought ham­mers ho­mes and crops

Times of Suriname - - ENGELS -

BO­LI­VIA - Te­o­do­ra Cau­na de Quis­pe hasn’t had wa­ter at her hou­se in Bo­li­via’s ca­pi­tal, La Paz, for two weeks. “We can’t wash our­sel­ves or our clo­t­hes”, she said. “Eve­ry so of­ten the­re is a bit of mud­dy wa­ter that spurts out of the tap on my pa­tio.” A tan­ker has de­li­ve­r­ed wa­ter on­ly on­ce, and Te­o­do­ra – who works as a maid in a weal­thy neigh­bor­hood ne­ar­by – has been for­ced to buy ex­pen­si­ve bott­led wa­ter for her fa­mi­ly to drink. This week, Pre­si­dent Evo Mo­ra­les de­cla­red a na­ti­o­nal emer­g­en­cy, af­ter the com­bi­ned im­pact of the El Ni­ño wea­ther cy­cle, poor wa­ter ma­na­ge­ment and cli­ma­te chan­ge hel­ped cau­se the coun­try’s worst drought in 25 ye­ars. Wa­ter ra­ti­o­ning is in ef­fect for the first ti­me ever in La Paz, whe­re the three main re­ser­voirs that pro­vi­de the ci­ty’s wa­ter are al­most dry. The se­mi-arid high­lands sur­roun­ding the ca­pi­tal re­ly al­most en­ti­re­ly on re­ple­nish­ment by rain­fall. Bread, a key sta­p­le he­re, is in­cre­a­sin­gly scar­ce and ma­ny hos­pi­tals are wor­king at half ca­pa­ci­ty, sus­pen­ding non-emer­g­en­cy sur­ge­ries and dia­ly­sis. In the poor neigh­bor­hoods of sou­t­hern Su­cre, taps ha­ve run dry for three weeks. The drought has hit ru­ral are­as hard as re­ser­voirs and la­kes dry up, crops wit­her and ani­mals die. In­di­ge­nous ri­tu­als be­see­ching the gods for rain ha­ve ta­ken on a par­ti­cu­lar ur­g­en­cy this year and last, when the drought be­gan.

In the sou­t­hern high­lands, whe­re most of Bo­li­via’s quinoa is grown, drought has slas­hed the 2016 crop by as much as half. “We are in a sta­te of shock,” said La Paz wa­ter spe­ci­a­list Mo­ni­ca Ay­a­la. Frus­tra­ti­on over the lack of wa­ter is of­ten di­rec­ted at the sta­te com­pa­ny Epsas, cre­a­ted in 2007 af­ter a cam­paign against wa­ter pri­va­ti­za­ti­on by Agu­as de Il­li­ma­ni, the lo­cal sub­si­di­a­ry of the French con­glo­me­ra­te Su­ez. Pro­tes­ters in El Al­to we­re in­fu­ri­a­ted by Su­ez’s re­fu­sal to ex­pand ser­vi­ces to poor neigh­bor­hoods that we­re dee­med un­pro­fi­ta­ble, and wa­ter pri­va­ti­za­ti­on was re­ver­sed. The new­ly for­med Epsas un­der­took an ex­ten­si­on of ser­vi­ces to out­ly­ing are­as. “Thanks to Epsas ef­forts, we ha­ve 84% po­ta­ble wa­ter co­ver­a­ge, which of cour­se means in­crea­sed con­sump­ti­on,“said Ay­a­la. “But ta­riffs ha­ven’t ri­sen in ni­ne ye­ars, so Epsas didn’t ha­ve the in­co­me to de­vel­op new wa­ter sour­ces.” Me­an­w­hi­le, exis­ting in­fra­struc­tu­re is crum­bling, and pu­blic wa­ter com­pa­nies are pla­gued by cor­rup­ti­on and in­com­pe­ten­ce, said Ay­a­la.


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