Indigenous women of Bolivia, Peru unite to protect Lake Titicaca

By Yolanda Salazar

La Paz, Oct 23 (EFE).- Rosa Jalja and Elizabeth Zenteno are two of the dozens of indigenous women from Bolivia and Peru who came together five years to advocate to action to protect Titicaca, the sacred lake that the countries share.

The group comprises around 50 prominent women from indigenous communities on the shores of what is South America’s largest lake, covering more than 8,500 sq. km. (3,300 sq. mi.), and the highest navigable lake in the world, sitting at an altitude of 3,000 meters (l0,000 feet).

Jalja, a resident of Copacabana, Bolivia, told Efe that she became active in the defense of Titicaca because she looks upon the lake as a “father” whose health is her responsibility.

“We take water from the lake, so we consider Lake Titicaca is like a person and we have to make sure that he is not sick,” she said.

The organization, Women United in Defense of Water, have promoted clean-up efforts on both sides of the border.

They have also established a presence in the area schools, teaching youngsters about water-quality measurement and making the children aware of the lake’s importance, Vania Albarracin of Agua Sustentable (Sustainable Water), a Bolivian NGO that supports the women’s work, told Efe.

Environmental engineer Elizabeth Zenteno said that she joined Women United earlier this year with the goal of contributing fresh ideas to the project.

Women are the people “suffering” the most from the damage done to Lake Titicaca by pollution and climate change because it is usually they who must travel increasingly longer distances to get clean water for their families, the 27-year-old activist said.

“For me, Lake Titicaca is life, it’s our inheritance, it’s a natural resource that we have to take care of,” Zenteno told Efe.

While some of the pollution that threatens Titicaca is visible, notably the plastic bottles and other trash thrown onto the surface from boats, agricultural and industrial runoff and untreated sewage constitute the bigger danger to the human population and to wildlife in the area, which includes examples of endangered species Members of Women United are currently working with other environmental organizations and government agencies on a proposal for legal personhood that would establish Lake Titicaca as a subject with rights. EFE ysm/dr

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