Lake Atitlan Among 1 Billion On Globe Without Clean Fresh Water
Unsafe water kills more people every year than all forms of violence, including wars
By Greg Szymanski, JD
May 4, 2010
According to a group called Charity Water, over 1 billion people on the globe lack fresh drinking water. Two hundred thousand of those people reside in or around Lake Atitlan in the Western Guatemalen Highlands.
Other facts compiled by Charity Water show “unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation cause 80 per cent of diseases and kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war.
“Children are especially vulnerable, as their bodies aren’t strong enough to fight diarrhea, dysentery and other illnesses. Ninety per cent of the 42,000 deaths that occur every week from unsafe water and unhygienic living conditions are to children under five years old. Many of these diseases are preventable. The UN predicts that one tenth of the global disease burden can be prevented simply by improving water supply and sanitation.”
And everyone of these sad facts apply to Lake Atitlan, but still there have been no real solutions to control raw sewage and agricultural run-off, the main causes leaving the water at the lake undrinkable and unsafe for recreational purposes.
Lake Atitlan is estimated to bring in $30 million annually from tourist dollors, according to 2002 government figures. However, behind the scenic lake and swank hotels, many visitors never really get to see the stark poverty conditions existing there.
Furthermore, the recent pollution problems which threatens the very existance of the lake is only making matters wores, especially for the large indigenous population barely eeking out a subsistence living.
Once known as the most beautiful lake in the world, in 2009 Lake Atitlan, a 1000′ deep volcanic lake 130 square km in size, was taken over by a massive bloom of cyanobacteria that is now entering its toxic phase ending the basic source of water for the thousands of lake shore inhabitants as well as halting the livelihood of indigenous fisherman. Authorities on lake pollution in a recent gathering at Istanbul listed Lake Atitlan as the world’s most threatened lake in 2009.
With haphazard garbage collection and no raw sewage and water treatment, the once crystal clear water is now undrinkable.
In October 2009, 85 per cent of the lake’s surface was covered with a green algae scum, cutting tourism by 75 per cent, according to local reports.
Charity Water was the vision of a man named Scott Harrison, who saw a need first in Africa and then decided to do something about it. In four years, Harrison and his non-profit organization have raised more than $19 million for more than 2,500 fresh water projects worldwide.