Climate change is affecting wetlands in the Andes and causing two Andean communities to shrink, such as Miraflores and Canchayllo. Nevertheless, they have gone back to an ancient method to improve access to water.
Since these villages depend on the puna “a set of alpine ecosystems above 13,000 feet that include grasslands and wetlands to graze sheep, cows, alpacas, llamas and vicuñas”, according to NPR, for their livelihood, they decided to develop a centuries-old hydraulic system to help irrigate the reserve of Nor Yayuyos Cochas’ pastures and provide a nutrient-rich soil for the animals.
“So in 2013, the communities teamed up with scientists from U.S. nonprofit The Mountain Institute (TMI) and reserve authorities to devise plans to revive their historic waterways, including canals, lakes and reservoirs. In addition to providing water, the project also would help mitigate the effects of climate change on the landscape, which has been degraded by grazing, melting glaciers and erratic rainfall”, the aforementioned website explained.
They also mention the struggle Andean communities, often marginalized and impoverished, have to go through to adapt to the changes in climate. According to Bryan Mark, a glaciologist with Ohio State University, Peru has lost since 1970 more than 40% of its ice surfaces, which are a critical water source for Lima.
“The ancient water systems the villagers wanted to revive once kept the wetlands verdant in the puna, an otherwise dry region sometimes described as an Andean tundra”, NPR explained.
The restoration of the ancient hydraulic systems took two years to complete, and it consisted mostly of cleaning and rehabilitating abandoned wells and canals so that they could collect rainfall.