The Guardian

The ecological catastrophe that turned a vast Bolivian lake into a salt desert

What was once the country’s second largest lake is now a salt flat and the vanishing waters are taking an indigenous community’s way of life with them
A boat lies on its side on the salt flat that used to be Lake Poopó. Photograph: Laurence Blair

The remainder of an ancient sea at the heart of South America is fast becoming a memory: a white expanse of salt stretches for miles, with just a smear of red, brackish water at its southern edge.

Lake Poopó was once Bolivia’s second largest body of water, but when asked how to get to the lake today, locals correct a visitor.

“You mean the ex-lake; the salt flat,” says Arminda Choque, 23, as she waits outside a mobile dental clinic in Llapallapani, a community of crumbling adobe-and-thatch houses inhabited, who have lived off the lake’s abundant fish since time immemorial. “I want my children to leave and go to college. There’s no future for them here.”

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Guardian

The Guardian10 min read
'We Were Packed Like Sardines': Evidence Grows Of Mass-event Dangers Early In Pandemic
Research appears to back up stories of people who believe they got coronavirus at events UK government allowed to go ahead Corona
The Guardian3 min read
Making Up With The Joneses: How Covid-19 Has Brought Neighbours Closer
New friendships have been forged and communities stitched together since the pandemic forced huge changes on us all Coronavirus – latest updates
The Guardian5 min readSociety
Covid-19 Makes It Clearer Than Ever: Access To The Internet Should Be A Universal Right | Tim Berners-Lee
The internet eased lockdown life for millions. But millions more still can’t get online, and that’s fundamentally unfair