Thursday, March 19, 2009

Safeguarding Fresh Water - the Apu Pachatusan

March 22 is World Water Day. Water is essential for life and as such, the world's unique biodiversity and human communities both depend on water’s continued availability. However, only 1% of the Earth’s fresh water flows freely, and burgeoning human populations are making unsustainable demands on this vital resource that are already outstripping supply in many regions around the world. An estimated 1 out of every 6 people on Earth has no access to clean drinking water, 2 out of 6 people lack adequate sanitation and 4 out of six afflicted by water-borne illnesses.

We have come to rely on steady water flows for a significant portion of the world’s energy generation and food production. However, climate change represents a formidable threat, resulting in too much water in some places, and not enough in others. The degradation and decline of freshwater systems is now far too prevalent to be ignored. With the population expected to increase to 9 billion by 2050, and with much of that growth happening in poor developing countries, the global freshwater crisis is only going to get worse.

In the Peruvian Andes, the sacred valley of the Incas is witnessing a battle between climate change and human survival. The Apu Pachatusan is a seasonal glacier that rises over 15,000 feet above sea level (4,842 meters) and is one of the most important sites in the Inca religious world. It is currently in danger of vanishing as a result of climate change and deforestation.

Fortunately, the communities surrounding Apu Pachatusan have had the help of both the Machu Picchu Institute and Conservation International (CI) in Peru. The community has reforested over 74 acres (30 hectares) and is planning to plant over 190 acres (80 hectares) of native trees by the end of 2008.

Conservation International has an interactive website on Safeguarding Fresh Water where you can learn more about the Apu Pachatusan efforts as well as other communities around the world who are also trying to protect their water systems.

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