Cochabamba, which takes its name from its waters and lakes (q’ucha=lake and pampa=plain), observes every day the harsh torment of the Alalay Lagoon, the last remaining within the city. It is almost dry, with less vegetation, fewer birds and no fish. Its unbreathable smell is the unmistakable sign of its contamination.
Alalay has weathered several crises in the last decade, the most severe in 2016 due to fish kills, and is undergoing an aging process. But what is it like now? “It is in a drying process as no water is entering and if the water does not arrive soon it will dry out completely,” warned the director of the Limnology and Aquatic Resources Unit (ULRA) of the UMSS, Edgar Goitia.
As shown in the satellite images in this article, the lagoon has drastically lost space, water and vegetation over the last 10 years. Therefore, dredging is an urgent measure to reverse the crisis. (See infographic)
“The lagoon has filled with sediment and organic material that has filled the lagoon glass and is now unable to hold any more water; Therefore, dredging is necessary so that we can have a long-term lagoon. Otherwise it will become a swamp and then a terrestrial ecosystem,” he explained.
The mayor’s office planning secretary, Marcel Panoso, explained that the lagoon requires further action. He observed the role of the Committee for the Restoration, Improvement and Protection of the Alalay Lagoon (Crempla), composed of the Ministry of Environment, the Government, the Universidad Mayor de San Simón (UMSS) and other entities.
“Crempla was not only a solution, but also part of the problem. We as a local government don’t need to be told what is wrong, we need to act,” he said.
By extracting mud and sediment that has accumulated over 20 years at the bottom of this urban lagoon, the ship can regain its shape and deepen to accommodate the water. However, further measures are still required, such as the construction of the surrounding ditch to prevent the ingress of contaminated water and ensure good drainage quality, as at Misicuni.
The dredging is carried out according to the parameters set by a consulting company and requires 30 million bolivianos. After a 12-day suspension due to the requirement for two additional permits for the transfer and disposal of the sludge, Mayor Manfred Reyes Villa announced that sediment extraction would begin on Monday.