Varied national geography allows glacier formations to develop from the heights of the Andes mountain range in the north to the Patagonian lands of the south.

Thursday, July 30, 2009  
Glaciares Glaciares (Photo:Turismo Chile)

Among its abundant fresh water reserves, which are the biggest in the southern hemisphere, Chile has its glaciers.  They represent one of the many natural beauties of the territory. Its importance as an element of natural balance of the temperatures makes its preservation and study  very relevant in the world of science.

More than 3100 glaciers found in more than 20,000 square kilometers demonstrate the relevance of these formations for the country. For this reason, the Glaciers National Policy was approved at the beginning of 2009. To a certain extent, the quantity of its glaciers contributes to Chile being the country with the largest fresh water reserves in the Southern Hemisphere.

Parallel to this, there are initiatives, such as the one promoted by the Scientific Study Center (CECS).  In the summer of 2010, it hopes to host an international conference about glaciology and climate change in Valdivia, where its head office is located.

Efforts for preservation

Thanks to the glaciology research study (scientific discipline that intends to study properties and behavior of glaciers), a cadastre of all the glaciers in Chile has been done.

In April, environmental authorities approved the Glaciers National Policy, whose main objective is to protect and preserve this natural resource.

The text of the law poses that the Chilean State “recognizes the strategic relevance of these echo-systems for the country, defines them in their central aspects, and establish the main actions that must be carried out to assure proper preservation.

Among the challenges of this initiative, is the elaboration of an official glacier registry, that will be updated periodically with scientific information on historical changes, its current state and future evolution, as well as its influence in the ecosystem. In addition, local climatic scenarios where glaciers exist will be modelled with the intention of determining the vulnerability of natural systems and its level of adaptation to global warming.

One of the main advances to preserve the environment is to enlist all investment projects where glaciers are involved in the Environmental Impact Evaluation System, and effort that was not required previously.  A special characteristic of this new policy is that in some cases a sustainable usage of the glaciers should be allowed.

These policies unite the initiatives of state organisations such as the Dirección General de Aguas (General Directorate of Waters, DGA), which has just created the Unit of Glaciers and Snow that intends to implement a monitoring system of these great fresh water reserves.. At the same time, the National System of Protected Wild Areas (Snaspe) is in charge of the protection of the majority of glaciers located in the austral zone, where the biggest glaciers in South America are located.