Situated at an elevation of 3812 metres above sea level, Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world. With a surface area of 8372 square kilometers, it happens to be the largest lake of South America. And it is in danger. The lake is fed by five major river systems namely, Ramis, Coata, Ilave, Huancané, and Suchez and twenty other smaller streams. The gargantuan lake is home to more than 530 aquatic species with several endangered species like Titicaca water frog, Titicaca grebe etc forming part of its biodiversity. More so, around 90% of fish species are endemic to Lake Titicaca only. Apart from that, thousands of people depend on the lake for water, food and tourism.
According to Global Nature Fund (GNF), Lake Titicaca has been nominated as the “Threatened Lake of the Year” in 2012 owing to water pollution and introduction of new species by humans. A United Nations report published in 2011 further states that Lake Titicaca is contaminated with heavy metals such cadmium, arsenic and lead. Despite all these warnings in the past, little has been done to protect the future of this unique lake.
There are in fact three fold problems with Lake Titicaca, receding water levels; water pollution; and extinction of native species due to introduced species by humans. The drop in the water levels is attributed to shortened rainy seasons in the catchment area and melting of glaciers feeding the tributaries of the lake. Though less can be done about the climatic shift causing a drop in the water levels; water pollution caused by surrounding human settlements is posing a serious threat to the ecological balance of the lake.
The waste pollutants comprise sewage, plastic from urban settlements; fertilizer washed away from agricultural lands; and discharge from booming mining industry. The waste from mining contains arsenic and Lake Titicaca is bearing the brunt by rapidly losing its fish, birds and amphibians. The recent aquatic death has infuriated locals on the Peruvian side and they have demanded strict action from the authorities in Lima.
In March, Peruvian President Humala announced US$450 million for building water treatment facilities to cut down contamination levels. But the President is still waiting for a concrete plan from municipal authorities before dispensing the money. Meanwhile, volunteers from Ministry of Environment Water, armed forces, police and educational institutions have started a campaign to clean the tributaries to check solid waste entering the lake.
“Laketiticaca” by Helence81 – Transferred from Wikipedia. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –