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Water Management

Global Issues: Pollution, Politics, Poverty, and Privitization

Vicos, Peru Like many communities around the world, there are two major problems that Vicosinos face concerning sustainable, safe water 1) Inevitable future scarcity caused by global warming 2) Pollution. In Vicos, the sources of pollution of water are from mining and chemical fertilizers and insecticides used in agriculture. The Cornell Peru project was responsible for introducing these chemicals into agricultural practices.

Polution and Poverty : In 2007, the IPCC issued a warning that evidence of global warming is unequivocal. Undeniably, environmental pollution is having a negative impact the availability of water, but the water crisis is not simply a matter of scarcity. A UNDP report, states that poverty, power and inequality are also at the heart of the problem: in a world of unprecedented wealth, almost 2 million children die each year for want of a glass of clean water and adequate sanitation. Millions of women and young girls are forced to spend hours collecting and carrying water, restricting their opportunities and their choices. And water-borne infectious diseases are holding back poverty reduction and economic growth in some of the world's poorest countries. Moreover, 1.2 billion people live without access to safe water and 2.6 billion without access to sanitation.

The Privatization of Water: As globalization reaches the far corners of the world, the privatization of water has engendered numerous conflicts. In 1999, under pressure from the World Bank, the city of Cochabamba, Bolivia sold the region's public water system to Aguas del Tunari, a consortium led by London-based International Water Limited (IWL), jointly owned US-based Bechtel Enterprise Holdings and its Spanish co-investor, Abengoa. At the signing of the Bolivian contract, ILW boasted that it was providing water and wastewater services to nearly six million customers in the Philippines, Australia, Scotland and Bolivia and adding another million customers with pending agreements in India, Poland and Scotland. In Bolivia, IWL claimed it raised rates by 35% but poorer users in the valley were hit with increases as high of 300%. These untenable hikes sparked two months of protests that resulted in people injured, one shooting death and two youths blinded.

Bechtel retaliated by filing a law suit eighteen months later for $50 million against Bolivia in the World Bank's trade court. During six years of legal battles, the Democracy Center led a global campaign to force Bechtel to drop the case. Over 300 organizations from 43 countries bombarded the Bechte headquarters in San Francisco with emails and letters. On January 19, 2006, only days before the swearing in of Bolivian President Evo Morales, Bechtel withdrew its lawsuit.

Bectel received for a symbolic payment of two Bolivian coins worth about 30 cents.

Sources Include: IPCC and UNDP

The majority of world's population, 70%, lives in the Tropics, roughly the region from 30N to 30S latitude which makes up half of the surface area of earth. Tropical glaciers provide 68.7% of the world's freshwater and are the only ecosystem that supports rivers in the dry season. The Cordillera Blanca mountain range of northern Peru is home to 70% of the world's tropical glaciers. The largest tropical ice cap in the world, Quelccaya, is in Vilcanota mountain range of Southern Peru.

Vicos is situated in the Quebrada Honda at the base of Huascarán, a glacier at 6,768 meters in the Cordillera Blanca range. Huascarán, estimated to be 19,000 years old, feeds two glacial lakes, Winoyo and Garrosa, the water sources for the community of Vicos. Huascarán is visibly melting.

Marco Zapata, a glaciologist of the Institute for National Resources in Huaraz, warns that Peru has lost 20% of its glaciers in the last 20 years (see The BBC). By 2015 most glaciers located below 5,500 meters will have disappeared. Ohio State glaciologist Lonnie Thompson, announced in February of 2007, that Quelccaya's major outlet glacier, Qori Kalis, could lose half its mass in the next 12 months and could be gone completely within five years (see CBC as well as Pierrehumbert).

Vicos, Peru

This process is irreversable.

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