Located at 13,000 feet above sea level, in the high plateau of the Bolivian Andes, the Poopó and Uru Uru lakes are a source of life for indigenous and rural communities. Part of the water system of Lake Titicaca, they’re recognized as Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention.
The Poopó and Uru Uru lake basin is also an important host of rich local biodiversity. During the winter season, the lakes are home to the largest concentration of flamingos in the high Andean region of South America. Approximately 200 species of animals and plants have been recorded there, including rare endemic and migratory birds.
But the health of these lakes is in critical condition. In just a few years, the water levels of Lake Poopó shrunk to alarming levels, before completely disappearing in 2015. Although Poopó is slowly recovering thanks to seasonal rains, it remains vulnerable in the dry season.
The serious environmental degradation of the lakes is the result of human activities that affect the quantity and quality of its waters, including the diversion of rivers, the climate crisis and mining activities.
Damages to these ecosystems put at risk the life systems that depend on them, including the subsistence of Aymara and Quechua communities, and the Uru Murato, one of Bolivia’s oldest native nations. The Uru Murato people were fishermen, but due to the contamination and reduction of the waters, they have been forced to migrate to work in the salt mines.