Preserving Bolivia’s High-Andean lakes, sources of life | Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) Skip to content Skip to navigation

Preserving Bolivia’s High-Andean lakes, sources of life

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.


What AIDA is doing: 

  • Identifying and building legal strategies, hand-in-hand with indigenous communities and local organizations, for the recovery of the Poopó and Uru Uru lakes.
  • Supporting affected communities and their organizations in order to guarantee their rights within the framework of national and international legal systems.
  • Making visible the damages that mining is causing to the lakes and the communities that depend on them, with particular emphasis on the situation of women.
  • Highlighting the international environmental and human rights obligations that the government has to preserve these and other high Andean lakes.


Indigenous woman of the Bolivian highlands
Photo: T'uru Project/Película "Madre Agua: Tras el Rastro del Lago Poopó"

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