Lake Titicaca Being Used as a Sewage Dump
Lake Titicaca is the victim of a serious paradox. It was proposed as one of the seven natural wonders of the world, but now it is being used as a sewage drain by cities and villages that border the lake in Peru.
According to a report in the El País newspaper of Tarija, the Peruvian Ministry of the Environment established that 12,731,147 cubic meters of sewage water is dumped into the lake each year. This tragedy dates back to 1980 when bad smells began to emanate from the Puno Bay and a large number of fish died. The current diagnostic: contamination due to organic waste.
Tourists arrive at the world's highest navigable lake to find a disconcerting panorama. Instead of blue waters they find a golf course. That's the first impression visitors get is of a thick covering of water lentils on the water, a parasitic plant that stains the lake shore green. On the surface garbage floats and ducks swim joyously among this layer of food. Meanwhile, a group of men from the Proyecto Especial Binacional del Lago Titicaca (PELT) (Special Lake Titicaca Bilateral Project) pick up the lentils with enormous strainers and dump them in piles on the shore. Every day they extract four truck-loads.
"Lentils are an evident symptom of pollution. Unfortunately, extracting (the plants) is just a civic act because as long as we don't extract the mud accumulated at the bottom of the lake, they will grow back quickly," explained Edmundo Miranda, director of the Bahía Interior Program of the municipality of Puno. There are about 800,000 tons of polluted mud in the lake bed.
Lake Titicaca is part of a water system that includes 4 basins: Titicaca, Desaguadero, Poopó and the Salt Flats of Coipasa (TDPS).
Puno, Juliaca, Ilave, Azángaro, Avaviri, Juli and Yunguyo together have about 500,000 inhabitants who generate 12,731,147 cubic meters of waste each year.
SLOW AGONY: This pollution could cause the death of this body of water. An example of this is what has happened in the Puno Bay. Thirteen years ago it seemed like a good idea to build a dock to separate one sector of the lake for recreation. Today this area is a fetid mass of green with empty recreational boats moored on the shore. To Germán Espinoza, who is responsible for the PELT environmental projects, the only option to recover this part of the bay is to refill the lagoon and build a jetty over it.
"Everything ends up in the lake. It's not only waste water from homes but also from hospitals and factories. Without waste water treatment plants the lake is condemned," claims Alberto Giesecke,a specialist from the Ministry of the Environment.
Despite this, cities such as Puno don't have an efficient waste water treatment system and have been contaminating the lake for over half a century. Maybe this is why currently, the marine blue lake waters that are shown on postcards can now only be far out on the lake.
Informal mining: According to the autonomous authorities of Lake Titicaca, more than 30,000 informal miners dump their polluted waters into the rivers that run into the lake.
Solid waste: The city of Puno produces 100 tons per day of solid waste. But only 80% is picked up and part of this trash ends up in the lake.
Stabilization lagoon: This receives 80% of the waste water produced by the city of Puno. The waste water is not treated in any manner prior to being dumped into Lake Titicaca.
The Puno Bay suffers from serious contamination due to organic waste (drainage). The main enemy is water lentils, an evident symptom of pollution.
Lake Titicaca belongs to an enclosed basin and its rivers do not empty into the ocean. Therefore, it has little possibility of eliminating contaminant substances and this makes it an extremely fragile ecosystem.
The presence of sulfur: This has a smell characteristic of rotten eggs and are an indication of dead organic matter (waste water). An Irmape study revealed that a the Puno Bay presents the most alarming levels.
Natural refuge: the Lake Titicaca basin is a refuge for migratory birds and the only habitat of the giant Titicaca lake frog (Tematobiusculeus) which is currently a vulnerable species.
This is a translation of an article found here:
Image copyright: Fotolia