As in the Swiss Alps, glaciers in the Andes are in danger of someday disappearing because of global warming. Meanwhile, melting ice is bringing a range of adverse consequences for the people who live in the highlands of Peru or on the downstream plains. Glacial lake outbursts, flash floods, landslides or avalanches are all dangers faced by the inhabitants. Vegetable crops also suffer from disturbed irrigation flows.
Active since 2008 in issues of adaptation to climate change in the Peruvian Andes, the SDC decided to conduct a pilot study of the evolution of the “Glacier 513”, located near the municipality of Carhuaz in central Peru -- with the firm belief that the data collected may also be extrapolated to other glaciers.
Three areas of intervention
The “Glaciares 513” project includes a number of different actors – the University of Zurich’s Glaciology and Geomorphodynamics Group, Peruvian universities, national and local authorities, and the Peruvian people. It consists of three parts:
- Establishment of management plans and water-monitoring in the region concerned, and establishment of a warning system
- Training Peruvian specialists in glaciology
- General capacity building and support for coordination between stakeholders - public and private - affected by the consequences of melting glaciers
The development of water management plans must bring together an overview of the population’s water needs (for both consumption and irrigation), the risks of existing natural disasters, as well as the potential for generating hydropower from melting glaciers.
Reinforcing national capacity
To do this, the project supported by the SDC focuses on building national expertise. Academically, it works to develop a curriculum for postgraduate training in glaciology in Peru, in close collaboration with specialists from the University of Zurich. In 2011, Peru had only two experts in the field of glaciology.
At the same time, rural people are not forgotten. Involvement of residents and local authorities in the planning and adaptation to climate change is crucial. Within the project, the needs and concerns of grassroots communities are relayed by citizen committees and schools.