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LA PAZ (Reuters) – According to scientists in the Andes country, Bolivia’s Tuni glacier is melting faster than initially expected, a predicament that is likely to make water shortages worse already plaguing the capital, La Paz, just 60 km away.

Scientists from the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés (UMSA), who are tracking Tuni and other area glaciers, reported to Reuters that the once sprawling glacier had been reduced to only one square kilometer.

Where they had once estimated that it would last until 2025, they are now claiming that its disappearance is imminent.

“This entire sector was once covered with ice,” said Dr. Edson Ramírez, a university glaciologist. Across much of the glacier´s former path, now only discolored rock remains, exposed for the first time in centuries.

According to Bolivian scientists, while the glacier has been receding since the Little Ice Age, when vast ice fields topped several Andean mountains, the rapidly changing climate has intensified the process.
Torrential rains and drought have become more widespread, they said, and mountain snow has become less predictable.
Researchers suggest that the warming climate and the rapidly melting glaciers have coincided with a shift from the mountains to the cities of Bolivia, pressuring already faltering supplies of water.

“It has not rained for months, I think it must be due to climate change, that is why Pachamama (Mother Earth) got angry and it does not rain,” he said in his native Aymara language.

Although the populations at the foot of the Andes do not depend entirely on water from the high Andean glaciers of Bolivia, mountain ice has fed rivers used for crop irrigation and has provided at least 20% of the water supply of La Paz, scientists estimate.

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