New Save Lake Atitlan Mission Web Site Debuts Monday
It’s goal is to bring people together and raise world wide awareness of serious cyanobacteria pollution and poverty at Lake Atitlan
By Greg Szymanski, JD
March 27, 2010
A new site will be hitting the web Monday March 29 called Save Lake Atitlan Mission, highlighting efforts to correct cyanobacteria pollution and poverty at Lake Atitlan in the Guatemalen Highlands.
“We want to galvanize and bring good people together, using our web site as a world wide meeting place for everyone now involved in trying to solve the serious problems there,” said the head of Save Lake Atitlan Mission.
“There are many good people working to solve this problem, now working in many small groups. We want to feature all these people on our web site as well as raise more awareness and funds to solve problems.”
Save Lake Atitlan Mission will be opening up a modest meeting hall at Lake Atitlan in June to help distribute daily necessities to the needy.
“We will have a presence locally as well as in the United States in order to help out,” added the spokesman for the group. “Please check out our web site to see what we will be doing and we encourage everyone to participate with suggestions and reports on how the serious problems concerning the lake are moving along.”
Here are the specific goals of the Save Lake Atitlan Mission
OUR GOALS at Save Lake Atitlan Mission are specific with progress monitored on a monthly basis in each area outlined below. This progress will be available in our monthly newsletter either online or in printed form.
Once known as the most beautiful lake in the world, now Lake Atitlan, a 1000′ deep volcanic lake 130 square km in size, has been taken over by a massive bloom of cyanobacteria that is now entering its toxic phase. If immediate action isn’t taken it may mean the end of the basic source of water for the thousands of lake shore inhabitants as well as halting the livelihood of indigenous fisherman.
Only cleaning up the toxic algae that covered 85 per cent of the lake last year, will not solve the problem. Cyanobacteria has become a world wide epidemic. The research and work to eradicate the deadly bacteria at other lakes in Canada, America and China all show that raw sewage and agricultural run-off of toxic chemicals must be checked and controlled. If not, the problem will only worsen to a point where beautiful Lake Atitlan will turn into a blue-green algae swamp pit.
Before a problem can be solved, it must first be understood.
Even though cyanobacteria was first detected in 1976, there has never been a comprehensive remote satellite imaging monitoring put into place. Although the algae outbreak became critical in the last two years and will return again, an accurate monitoring system has not been put into place.
Our first goal is to make sure this gets done. If not, then you will keep hearing conflicting reports from business, scientific and government organizations, sometimes all having conflicting and, at times, selfish interests.
Monitoring of Land
As does the water, the surrounding land near Lake Atitlan needs to be closely monitored by remote satellite imaging to get an accurate reading of the phosphate content, one of the main causes for toxic algae blooms.
This has not been done even though toxic agricultural run-off is a serious problem.
Our second goal is to make sure this gets done.
Raw Sewage Dumped Into Lake
Although Lake Atitlan is large at about 30,000 acres, it is a stagnant body of fresh water without any main tributaries flowing in or out. Presently, the more than 60,000 inhabitants and thousands upon thousands of tourists visiting annually have taken its toll.
The 12 towns and villages surrounding are without waste water treatment plants, the last one in Panajachel (20,ooo people), which was only marginally effective was knocked out in 2005 by Hurricane Stan.
Our third goal is make sure proper water treatment is accomplished.
Toxic Use of Chemically-Based Fertilizers, Harmful Agricultural Run-Off
Most rural Guatemalans depend upon agriculture, either as subsistence farmers or agricultural day laborers. Incomes are supplemented through small rural enterprises, especially the production of handicrafts.
The use of chemical fertilizer is widespread although awareness is growing about its harmful effects. However, it still hasn’t stopped U.S. companies from selling their toxic products, which has caused a major problem at Lake Atitlan due to harmful toxic run-off since since the lake is more or less like the bottom of a big bowl where everything settles.
Our fourth goal is to make sure the use of these chemical fertilizers stops.
This is a wide topic, consisting of the use of many methods to farm in harmony with nature and to fish in harmony with the natural eco-system.
Much can be done here. Two examples are (1) the introduction and planting of mushrooms to balance nature on land. Second, the control and removal of fish not natural to Atitlan’s eco-system brought into the lake to increase sport fishing dollars. The black bass introduced is a perfect example, which environmentalists say have drastically changed the balance of nature at Lake Atitlan.
Our fifth goal is to keep an eye on harmony between man and nature on both land and water.
It is estimated 75 per cent of the indigenous population in and around Lake Atitlan live in poverty, barely having enough for the necessities of life. Poverty leads to poor health and poor health eventually leads to early death.
It is also estimated the tourist industry brings in $30 million a year.
These statistics provide the perfect backdrop for a situation where the rich and poor are living side by side in a tight little area using the same natural resources.
Atitlan serves as a perfect microcosm demonstrating how the middle class can be swallowed up by the rich and spit out poor, the same thing happening in cities all over America.
There is essentially no middle class at Lake Atitlan, no middle standard of equality. It’s either rich or poor and the disparity is quite obvious with a simple walk in any of the 12 villages or towns surrounding the lake.
A wealthy hotel or restaurant owner, capitalizing off the beauty of the Mayan’s sacred lake, may earn a handsome sum of $8 to $10,000 monthly.
But several blocks away, a group of Mayan day laborers on their way home from the fields to a ram shackled hut, may take in $4 or $5 a day apiece if their lucky.
It should be noted there are a number of relief and health organizations dedicating much time and effort to improve living conditions for the indigenous people at Lake Atitlan.
There is always room for more help and more hands. This is what Save Lake Atitlan Mission is all about — lending extra helping hands in a time of need.
As the main source of water for the 60,000 indigenous people on the shoreline, official reports have warned the water is undrinkable. This needs to be dealt with immediately.
Our first goal is to help make sure fresh water is found for every family.
Healthy Food and Improved Housing
Gautemala’s malnutrition rate is the highest in Latin America. Statistics also show its malnutrition percentage exceeds the 35 per cent figure found in Africa.
Our second goal is to find more ways to feed the hungry and improve housing conditions.
Improved Health Care
With the advent of tainted wanted due to harmful cyanobacteria, the indigenous population will be the group that suffers most. Stastistics reveal Guatemala’s infant mortality rate is extremely high.