Lake Atitlan is dying

Lake Atitlan is one of the most popular places in Guatemala for tourists. Antigua, Tikal and lake Atitlan are must-do even in the shortest visits to this country. Lake Atitlan is endangered, but not because of the tourism. Daily contamination by wastewater has its aftermath: cyanobacteria.

Mechanism of pollution is very simple. Wastewater and solid waste provide phosphorus and nitrogen that feed the cyanobacteria. Cyanobacteria then grow and that way prevent the sunlight reach deeper water. At this moment the sunlight only reaches up to five meters due to the turbidity of the water; It is expected that by 2019 the damage will be irreversible. Deforestation and lack of land protection in agricultural activities aggravate the problem. Lake Atitlan is dying like lake Amatitlan, south of the capital, did.

Pollution every year prompts groups of neighbours and entities that organise awareness campaigns to educate and inform the population about the importance that everyone has to save the Lake.

In Cakchiquel, Tzutujil and Spanish, the municipal authorities of San Pedro La Laguna, San Lucas Tolimán, Panajachel and Sololá drive the campaign not to use plastic bags, duroport or straws. Besides that, local authorities and environmentalists demand from the Congress and the State clear policies for the sustainable management of the basin, but to no avail.

Some measures are in effect but the main enemy – wastewater – is not yet under control. People that have an impact on the Lake live around in 15 municipalities. It is estimated that around 300 thousand people produce that type of the waste. A number of wastewater treatment plants - 11 in operation and 10 under construction – is definitely not sufficient for Lake Atitlán protection.

Every year, some 1.6 million cubic meters of wastewater enter the waters of the Lake. The point of no return will be reached very soon. The clock is ticking. After that, every possible recovery would be a very costly and demanding, if not impossible venue.

Lake Atitlan | Guatexplorer


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