Poverty And Pollution Leave Ugly Scars On Lake Atitlan
Save Lake Atitlan Mission Raising World Wide Awareness
By Greg Szymanski, JD
May 18, 2010
The face of sacred Lake Atitlan is changing as the scars of pollution and poverty now blemish the once pristine and sacred Mayan lake.
If solutions aren’t found quickly, the lake will die a slow death from toxic cyanobacteia.
If solutions aren’t found quickly, the 200,000 inhabitants relying on the lake will be pushed out, unable to survive without fresh water.
The problem has been ignored for years, ever since cyanobacteria was first detected in 1976. Instead of dealing with raw sewage and toxic fetilizer run-off pouring into the lake daily, everyone waited until the lake in 2009 became engulfed by a huge green algae scum that covered anywhere from 50 to 85 per cent of the lake depending on who was giving the eyewitness accounts.
However, Lake Atitlan is no different than many other lakes around the world, including many in the U.S. Recent reports show at least 35 states have issued toxic cyanobacteria warnings since the many different strains cause serious illness in plant, animal and human life.
In 1996, 50 people died in Brazil from cyanobacteria contamination. In recent studies, scientists have linked toxic cyanobacteria to serious neuroligical diseases, even Parkinson’s, Lou Gehrig’s and Alzeheimers.
At Lake Atitlan according to Dwight Poage of Mayan Failies, disease and illness are on the rise. Recently, a day was set aside for a free health at San Marcos, one of the lakeside villages.
“We had to shut the doors at 9am because so many people needed treatment,” said Poage, who works with the poor on a daily basis. His web site can be found at http://www.mayanfamilies.org. “Malnutrition is high and the food draught this year hasn’t helped. Reports show food production is down about 40 per cent. More help is needed now because children are dying.”
With 9 million living in poverty out of the total population of roughly 13 million, according to World Food Program statistics, it is not difficult to understand that they need help from around the world.
Help is not only needed with the basic necessities of life, but at Lake Atitlan the threat to the very existence of the lake by over pollution is finally taking its toll.
Letting Lake Atitlan serve as a microcosm for the assault on all indigenous people around the world, we see this assault by the west strike at the social and spiritual well being of the Mayans, as well as the envirnoment in which they live.
A new group has formed with both local support and support from the United States to help end poverty and to help end the environmental distruction going on at Lake Atitlan that has left the water there undrinkable.
This group called Save Lake Atitlan Mission featured its new web site today http://www.savelakeatitlan.com, calling atention to the world of this werious problem as well as trying to galvanize support locally to save the lake and help the impoverished living on the shoreline.
“It’s foolish to think you can stop pollution at the lake without addressing the other problems facing the indigenous population living at Lake Atitlan,” said Bob Tuskin for Save Lake atitlan Mission.
Greg Szymanski, the founder of Save Lake Atitlan Mission added:
“You have to address the root cause of pollution and poverty while recognizing the wrongs of the past and correcting them. For example, the spiritual hi-jacking of the Mayans is just as important to understand as how they became impoverished and their lands and lakes have been polluted.
“It takes a thorough study of history, reading those books you can’t find at Barnes and Noble and searching out the books and information the elite who control this world don’t want you to read.”
Editor’s Note: 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 entered its toxic phase in 2009, 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.
Also, see more of Greg’s stories below on Atitlan. If you want to help raise money, awareness and meet the immediate needs of the Mayans, contact lakeatitlanmission at gmail.com