Environment

The Rocha And Caine Rivers Of Bolivia

The Rocha (or Kunturillo) and Caine Rivers flow through the Bolivian Departments of Cochabamba and Potosi near the Andes Mountains.

5. Description

The Rocha River, also known as the Kunturillu River, is a Bolivian river that flows through the Cochabamba Department of the Quillacollo Province of Bolivia. The river joins the Arque River at 17°42′10″ South Latitude, 66°14′45″ West Longitude, at an elevation of 2,350 meters to form the Caine River. The Caine River then flows for a distance of 162 kilometers across the Cochabamba and Potosí Departments of Bolivia, where it is finally known as the Rìo Grande. The Rìo Grande, or Guapay River, then travels for another 1,438 kilometers to join the Ichilo River, which is itself an important tributary of the Mamore River.

4. Historical Role

The Rocha and Caine river basins were inhabited by indigenous Indian tribes for a long period of time before the Spanish came and conquered the Cochabamba Valley around the year 1538. The Rocha River was originally known as the Kunturillo, meaning "condor" in the local language. Later on after the Spanish conquest, the Kunturillo was renamed theRocha River, after the Spaniard Martin de la Rocha. The river also witnessed the growth of city of Cohabamba in later years. The river currently serves as one of the most commercially important water bodies for this and other major Bolivian cities.

3. Modern Significance

The Roche and Caine River Basin acts as the habitat of rare and endangered flora and fauna, many of them endemic to the region. The waters of these rivers sustain life, including both human settlements and a large diversity of plant and animals. The Rocha River flows through 7 municipalities around the city of Cochabamba, and greatly influences the lives of the citizens of this city. The banks of the river often witness the gatherings of local citizens and tourists alike. The waters of the river are used for such various purposes as the growing of crops, washing of cars, and transportation. Like the Rocha, the Caine River plays an important role in the lives of the residents of the Potosi Department of Bolivia, and currently a plan has been formulated to construct a 132 Megawatts-capacity hydroelectric project on the Caine.

2. Habitat

The overall climate of the Cochabamba Department, through which the Rocha and Caine flow, is generally quite pleasant. Average temperatures in the summer (lasting between December and March) is around 26º Celsius, while that in winter (June through August) is around 17º Celsius. The elevation of the area is 2,558 meters above sea level. Two national parks, the Carrasco National park and the Amboró National Park, are located in the vicinity of the Rocha and Caine Rivers. These forests host a wide variety of plant and animal species. Jaguars, spectacled bears, anteaters, and 912 species of birds (like the Mottle-backed Elaenia and Sclater’s Tyrannulet), as well as a large number of fish, reptilian, amphibian, and insect species, are also found here.

1. Threats and Disputes

Currently, the Rocha and Caine rivers are suffering from severe pollution problems caused by a combination of industrial, agricultural, and domestic pollutants. Alarmingly, around 50 factories dump waste into the Rocha River. Though the river remains clear of pollutants to the naked eye in the rainy season, harmful quantities of nitrate, sulphates, and other chemical pollutants are still detected in the river all year-round. The Programa de Asistencia Agrobioenergetica al Campesino (PAAC), a non-profit institution, is attempting to mitigate the pollution issues of the Rocha River. The contaminated water poses health risks to the citizens of Cochabamba, and also threaten to kill the aquatic species of the river and those plants and animals beyond its banks.

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