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How One of World’s Most Beautiful Lakes Is Turning Into a Sewage Dump


062714-Atitlan-Guatemala_full_600As beautiful and breathtaking as architectural designs can be, nothing can ever compete with an incredible scenery that opens up on the horizon when you reach that massive mountain peak, or when you sit on the beach looking at the infinite ocean in front of you.

Nature is so beautiful, that even the greatest designers can only take inspiration from it and hope that their latest project can provide an experience that can be as close as possible to the real thing. This is why when reading about something like formation of a new geological feature out of human garbage on a beautiful Hawaiian coast, or seeing a floating plastic bag on the surface of a natural lake, breaks my heart a little.

Unfortunately, these stories are numerous, and the only thing we can do is to spread the word and try to convince as many people as possible that throwing garbage carelessly, has a devastating impact on the environment. So, here is another story- this time coming from the most beautiful lake in the worldLake Atitlan in Guatemala, where floating plastic bottles and garbage debris prevent even boats from moving.

Every year, the lake receives incredible amounts of trash, sewage, and fertilizer, slowly turning from a main tourist attraction to a dying eco-system. Ruining the touristic experience, however, is the least of the worries that locals have. More than 100,000 Guatemalans use the lake as their one and only source of drinking water, while numerous families depend on the fish to sustain their households.

The area is a home of more than 350,000 people, however the number of sewage treatment plants is nowhere near sufficient, turning the lake from a beauty of nature into a dumping site. The results are apparent, of course, with algal blooms, and incredible concentrations of bacteria. The government has spoken loudly about upcoming plans to clean the waters and improve on waste water management systems, yet no action has been taken.

The good news is, not all hope is lost. Scientists from local institutes have begun collaboration with international colleagues to deal with the problem. The teams believe that the only thing they can do is to export wastewater out of the lake basin and use it in agriculture. They also state that new treatment plants around the lake will not solve the problem. Not all is lost for Lake Atitlan, but the government, the locals and the scientists should all join forces and act soon. If not, there is a high chance that this beautiful spot will have the same fate ad the countless other lakes around the world, where nothing can be done to revive them any more.

Image (c)  Rodrigo Abd

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  1. The notion that Lake Atitlan is so polluted with trash and
    micro-organisms that boats have difficulty in moving across the water is
    nonsense. I am writing this from the village of Santa Cruz. Before me
    is a beautiful blue lake and while it is true that I can spy the
    occasional water bottle along the shore there are many more swimmers
    than plastic containers and from the boats locals wave as they pass by.

    The public is poorly served by articles as poorly researched as this one. If you want to write about boats immobilized by trash then take a look at Halong Bay.


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