“Alalay crisis overtakes the Office of Mayor in Cochabamba”

By Jessica Vargas & Lorena Amurrio, Los Tiempos | 11/08/2016 |  (Translated from Spanish by Google Translate)

The crisis in the Alalay lagoon has overwhelmed the town of Cochabamba. The mayor addresses the issue of the lack of coordination within the institutions involved in environmental monitoring, and he expresses concern over resources and health issues that pose risk to the communities. Schools near the lagoon are being affected by its harsh and unbearable odors, forcing children to bring masks to school to get through the day. Some are showing symptoms of sickness, which has caused much worry among the administration. The cyanobacterium Arthrospira fusiformis that predominates in Alalay generates a dangerous toxin, which makes the water’s consistency like honey. A study by the Catholic University of Bolivia shows that the toxin is very dangerous and could potentially be cancerous, however, the best way to address this environmental issue in Alalay is still being discussed among officials.


masks in schools alalay lagoon.jpg

The crisis in the Alalay lagoon has overwhelmed the technical and financial capacity of the town, said yesterday Councilman Edwin Jimenez, who has been monitoring the environmental problems of the water mirror for a decade. He regretted the lack of coordination among the seven institutions that make up the Crempla and announced that today he will ask the Municipal Council for a declaration of disaster.

The Secretary of Sustainable Development of the Mayor, Eduardo Galindo, said that only the municipality of Cochabamba is the "only institution that invests resources to save the lagoon." In April, 4 million Bolivians were approved for the emergency plan after the first fish mortality.

Environment Minister Alexandra Moreira, who has a representative on the Alalay Lagoon Recovery and Management Committee (Crempla), blamed the Mayor for the disaster and announced a meeting this week to discuss how they can support.

Faced with the dramatic situation of the lagoon with less than 30 percent of its capacity and the risk that the cyanobacteria are harmful to health due to the foul smell they give, he said: "I am very worried, however we are sorry that the Mayor Is the only institution that allocates resources and works. The Crempla is made up of several entities, but only the municipality does something. "


Affected students

The principals of the schools Walter Vallejos and Fidel Aranibar that work in the same infrastructure, in the mornings and afternoons, three blocks away from the lagoon, have requested the provision of surgical masks from the Mayor's Office to protect themselves from the contamination of Alalay.

Meanwhile, the first and second grade children bring their own masks to protect themselves from the odor that emanates from the lagoon, especially in the afternoon.

Professor Presencia Quispe of the educational unit Fidel Aranibar said that the smell increases after midday and that at the time of entry, at 13:30, it is unbearable. "It has been increasing," he said.

Some students said they had stomach pain and nausea. "Children are coming regularly, only two have symptoms, we are worried," said Walter Vallejos school principal Eugenio Mareño.

Health services from Combase, Alalay and Harry Williams reported that they had not treated patients with intoxication. The director of pediatrics at the Harry Williams Hospital, Marlen Antezana, said the possible symptoms are diarrhea, vomiting and allergies.



José María Leyes, mayor

I am very concerned about the situation of the Alalay lagoon. However, we regret that the city hall is the only institution that allocates resources and works in the lagoon. The Crempla is made up of several entities, but only the Municipality does something.

In addition, I must regret that the Minister of Environment refers to a study of third parties, ie not even a study of them, although they are also part of the Crempla, and in the end do not propose solutions. It can not be that they come once a month from their desk in La Paz to criticize, but they do not do anything when it is also their tuition.

Edwin Jiménez, councilman

Coordination is lacking in Crempla. They are focusing more on defending the interests of their institution. The Government, Semapa and the University give the impression that each one is going to take care of its institutional position; Do not think that they are a single collegiate body and the objective is the integral recovery of the lagoon Alalay.

The 3745 says that the decisions will be taken by majority. There are seven institutions, with four can take actions and draw up a plan to final design. In my opinion, the Mayor has been overtaken in its economic and technical capacity to resolve this conflict. Including, should be thought of a declaration of environmental disaster.



Refuge.- Given the epidemiological risk represented by cyanobacteria for animals, the Alcalay's Alcalay Center for Care and Referral (DAC) will transfer the 19 capuchin monkeys, four badgers, two parrots and five aquatic turtles by instruction Of the Mayor's Office. Chief Dennis Soux said they will stop receiving rescued animals.

Fish and studios.- The mayor of El Mayor, Elvis Gutiérrez, said that work is being done on a management plan for the fish that remain in the lagoon. The options are still being analyzed. However, the goal is to avoid losing native species, including two varieties of platincho. In the last two studies carried out by the Universidad Mayor de San Simón, no individual was found.


The cyanobacterium Arthrospira fusiformis that predominates in Alalay generates a dangerous toxin.

In the period that seven samples were carried out in three points of the reservoir, five were used to evidence the results of the state of the Alalay lagoon. The Southwest had the highest concentration of toxin with 69,228,915 cells per milliliter. The next point located to the east, place of comodatos, presents a concentration of 39,626,506 cells per milliliter. Finally, the northeastern point corresponding to the area where the Felcc, Firefighters, OTB 9 de Abril and the fruit market contain 47,144,578 cells per milliliter.

"Concentrations are so high that if you empty the water into a container, the consistency resembles honey," explained ecologist Eduardo Morales.



A study by the Universidad Católica Boliviana (UCB), developed by ecologist Eduardo Morales from June 8 to October 9 in Alalay lagoon, reveals that the new bacterium that dominates the algal flora is Arthrospira fusiformis, highly pathogenic to the human being.

"Regardless of the intensity of cyanobacterial blooms in an ecosystem like Alalay, people living around them accumulate detectable concentrations of toxins ... are concentrations sufficient to induce cancerous tumor processes in internal organs such as liver kidneys, etc. "Says the report.

The cyanotoxin of Arthrospira fusiformis can enter by direct contact, mucous or wound and inhalation, says research based on similar case studies in other countries. "There should be no controversy about damage in humans, it is proven, what we have to see are the concentrations of toxicity," said Morales. However, the president of Crempla, César Navia, pointed out that there is no risk by inhalation. The report recommends seeing concentrations of this toxin in people, especially women workers.



Vargas, J., & Amurrio, L. (2016, November 08). Alalay crisis overtakes Alcaldía. Los Tiempos. Retrieved from http://www.lostiempos.com/actualidad/local/20161108/crisis-alalay-rebasa-alcaldia