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Bolivian Glacier Melts, Dangerously Fast

The world's glaciers and ice caps are in terminal decline because of global warming, scientists have said time and again. //

A survey late last year revealed that the rate of melting across the world had sharply accelerated in recent years, placing even previously stable glaciers in jeopardy.

The loss of glaciers in South America and Asia would threaten the water supplies of millions of people within a few decades, experts warned.

And now comes more concrete proof of the highly disturbing trend.

Latin America analyst James Painter has found the Chacaltaya glacier in Bolivia is melting fast.

Chacaltaya could be as much as 18,000 years old, but it has lost 80% of its area in the last 20 years.

Even 15 years ago Chacaltaya was famous for being the world's highest ski run at 5,300 metres (17,400 feet). Not anymore.

What was once a 500-metre long glacier are just two separate areas of ice, latest photographs show. Chacaltaya has indeed become an icon of the effects of global warming, and a laboratory for predicting what is to befall other Andean glaciers.

In the wet season, one could still see snow-capped peaks in the region. But the snow melts quickly and runs off the glacier.

'We keep having to revise downwards our projections of when Chacaltaya is going to disappear completely,' said Ramirez, who has been monitoring the glacier since 1995.

'Not long ago we thought it was going to be 2015, now we think it could be this year or next.'

The Bolivian government too is taking such warnings seriously. Oscar Paz, the head of the national climate change programme, said: 'These glaciers are our water stores. One of our great concerns is the future of our drinking water supplies.'

A reservoir under the Tuni Condoriri range of mountains, for instance, provides about 80% of the drinking water to the region around the capital La Paz.
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