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Why is Lake Amatitlan contaminated?
“If this resource is poorly managed it could mean the end of humankind, without exaggeration,”
How long would it take to clean it up?
With the control of pollutant discharge by authorities, and the development of a comprehensive watershed management strategy, the lake should come back to its eutrophic state within 10 to 20 years.
What is being done to try to achieve this?
There are several initiatives for research and recovery of the lake. Together with the General Directorate of Research from the University San Carlos of Guatemala, and the Atitlan Studies Centre at the University of the Valley of Guatemala, we are developing a research project to find out the extent of human contamination in the last 50 to 70 years.
We are also collaborating with Auburn and Florida universities, in the US, with funds from National Geographic, to learn about the historical presence of cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins.
What is the role of citizen participation in these kinds of projects?
Citizen participation is key in processes of change and ecological restoration. I believe that for green technology to be successful in Lake Amatitlan, education, development and monitoring must be done by inhabitants and beneficiaries of the water resource themselves.
After lab work, the next step is to bring the results obtained to the field. For that, we need local support as well as support from the regulatory bodies of municipalities that negatively impact the lake.
What problems are there in Guatemala with water management?
Unfortunately, Guatemala has no regulations or laws on water use and management. Different initiatives have been proposed but they have not thrived, essentially because they had no scientific basis, and because water is recognized as a right, not a service. More education and institutional intervention is required to establish laws on the management of this resource.
You could have studied a myriad of subjects. Why did you choose water?
If this resource is poorly managed it could mean the end of humankind, without exaggeration. So efforts to understand, study, manage and preserve water resources – not only for humans but for biodiversity and natural processes — are vital and urgent.