MICHOACAN, May 12, 2021 (EFE).- The thousand-year-old Lake of Cuitzeo, considered the second largest in Mexico and located in the western state of Michoacán, could be on the verge of extinction due to the lack of rains, severe deforestation, and pollution by sewage discharge from at least fifteen urban populations and nearby rural areas.
Academics from the Michoacan University of San Nicolás de Hidalgo (UMSNH), fishermen and activists have launched on the Change.org platform a petition for the Government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to take care of Lake Cuitzeo through its ecological restoration and economic recovery, an application that has already received nearly 32,000 signatures.
According to the National Water Commission (Conagua), Lake Cuitzeo is the second largest in Mexico with an area of 306 square kilometers.
In the 1990s, the Government of Michoacán estimated that more than 5,000 tons of fish were caught in this lake, while now a maximum of 250 are caught; furthermore, of nineteen species of fish documented in 1975, only six survive.Conagua
Investment necessary to save the Lake
The Ministry of Health of Michoacán (SSM) has detected in recent years thousands of cases of gastrointestinal, bronchopulmonary, dermatological, and ophthalmological diseases, in inhabitants of the region affected by bacteria and viruses dispersed by dustbins that rise before the desiccation of 70% of this lake.
Silvano Aureoles, governor of Michoacán, considered a few days ago that the salvation of Lake Cuitzeo, whose current depth is barely between 80 centimeters and one meter, must be dealt with by the federal and state governments and the mayors of fifteen riverside municipalities that discharge their sewage into it.
He warned that to clean up the wastewater that reaches the lake, at least 3 billion pesos (about 126 million euros) are needed, and such an amount can only be provided by the federal government.
Lake Cuitzeo is influenced by the Michoacan municipalities of Cuitzeo, Álvaro Obregón, Charo, Chucándiro, Copándaro, Huandacareo, Queréndaro, Indaparapeo, Morelia (capital of Michoacán), Morelos, Santa Ana Maya, Tarímbaro and Zinapécuaro, as well as Uriangato, in the state of Guanajuato (central Mexico), which discharge wastewater to the tributary.
The causes of deterioration
Alberto Gómez-Tagle, a researcher at the UMSNH, told Efe that the lake was unfortunately cut by human hands into three vessels (or areas) due to the construction of two roads years ago that today function as dikes.
In addition, in the riverside area of the municipality of Huandacareo, there are countless pig farms and animal feces are dumped into the lake, as well as industrial waste from factories in the states of Michoacán and Guanajuato. He added that the demand for water for residual use of the 900,000 inhabitants of Morelia also reduces the rivers that previously provided the vital liquid to the reservoir.
Ricardo Luna, secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources of Michoacán, told that the deforestation of the mountainous areas has plugged the lake, so it is urgent to reforest the forests of the basin, although it would take a decade to see the first results, such as the recovery of the vegetal layer, the infiltration of rainwater and the birth of springs.
“When there are runoffs, the water carries away the mud and the depth of the lakes is lost and thus they begin to perish. A forest that is reforested needs ten years from now to regain topsoil ”, he pointed out.
Added to this is the construction of the roads, which have a “considerable” impact on the situation of the lake.
On several occasions, the also UMSNH researcher Arturo Chacón has warned that Lake Cuitzeo, which in past decades has already suffered from droughts and pollution, requires millions of cubic meters of water to survive and has urged the government to promote a decree of ecological restoration that induces the municipalities to elaborate an ecological and territorial ordering.
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