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Climate change caused the disappearance of Bolivia’s lake, scientists say

Last month, Bolivia’s lake Poopó was officially declared evaporated, affecting the livelihoods of hundreds of villagers. The disappearance of the country’s second-largest lake was caused by climate change and human interference, scientists say.

Several factors including the recurring El Niño weather patterns, diversion of water for mining and agriculture and the withdrawal of Andean glaciers are responsible for the disappearance of the lake. The saline lake located high on Bolivia’s semi-arid plains at 3,700 meters (more than 12,000 feet), has now dried up to an area, twice the area of Los Angeles.

“This is a picture of the future of climate change,” said Dirk Hoffman, a German glaciologist.

According to the government, More than 100 villagers from the village of Untavi have sold their livestock, refrained from fishing and left the village, bringing the population down to half. Only the elderly remain in the lakeside village, and about 3,250 people have received humanitarian aid. Juvenal Gutierrez, a 29-year old who moved to a nearby town said that there is no future there. Regional Gov.Victor Hugo Vasquez has calculated that Poopó is down to two percent of its former water level. Biologists said that about 75 percent of bird species have left.

Bolivian government was warned about critical condition of the lake. During a study in 2010, researchers calculated if the water level is less than one meter during the wet season. The study, published in the Hydrological Sciences Journal predicted the risk of the lake drying out in the dry season. Bolivia has asked the European Union for $140 million, to build water treatment plants for the lake watershed and to dredge tributaries, in a bid to bring it back. Milton Perez, a Universidad Tecnica researcher said that he doesn’t think they’ll see the “azure mirror of Poopó again.”

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