Devastating pollution in Central America: a tide of plastic waste discolors lakes and beaches (pics)

Devastating pollution in Central America: a tide of plastic waste discolors lakes and beaches (pics)

The crisis also strikes the paradisiacal beaches of Honduras’ Caribbean coast, which collect thousands of tons of garbage from Guatemala. Soft drink bottles, medicine packaging, shoes and all kinds of plastic items float on the green waters of a 13,500-hectare artificial lake that supplies a hydroelectric plant in El Salvador, and is recognized by UNESCO as a wetland of prime importance. goes.

Fishermen who still cast their nets there say that pollution pushes the fish to the depths of the country’s largest lake, leaving them inaccessible. “We haven’t been fishing for more than two months,” lamented 25-year-old fisherman Louis Penet, who is trying to retrain some tourists by daring them to venture into the waters of the pandemic. “Over the past two weekends, no tourists have arrived,” sighed the mayor of the village of Potonico, a hundred kilometers north of the capital San Salvador.

Ducks open a path in the middle of the garbage, small turtles perch on floating bottles, while horses on the shore drink the contaminated water.

It is “pollution never seen before”, assures AFP Jacinto Tobar, the mayor of Potonico, an area of ​​about 2,500 residents that is most affected in a fortnight bordering the lake. “The fauna and flora are seriously affected”, says the city councillor.

Fishermen also face competition from 1.5 million cormorants who have taken permanent refuge there instead of migrating, he says.

Residents and a public company have actually undertaken manual collection of the debris, but according to Mr Tober, it will take at least three or four months.

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an endless task

But the task may be endless: According to Salvador’s environment minister, Fernando López, the country generates 4,200 tons of garbage every day, of which about 1,200 are dumped in rivers, on beaches or on country roads.

Salvador President Nayib Bukele recently warned, “What can we expect from the future, if we do not take care of our environment, if we make our roads, rivers, lakes, forests and beaches dirty? “

In neighboring Honduras, it is on the Caribbean coast that plastic pollution wreaks its havoc: on the spectacular beaches of the Omoa region, some 200km north of Tegucigalpa. A few meters away from lush tropical vegetation, the sand is completely covered with a dirty carpet of waste from packaging, syringes or bottles.

“This garbage comes from Guatemala from the Motagua River”, on the other side of the border, regrets Candido Flores, a 76-year-old resident of the region. “With each flood (the garbage) comes back,” he explains. The state of origin of tension between two neighboring countries.

About 20,000 tons of plastic waste passes each year through the Las Vaques River, a tributary of Motagua, according to Dutch NGO The Ocean Cleanup, most of which comes from the dumping grounds of the capital’s hospital system, which is dedicated to the public sector. Cleaning the seas

Only 30% of plastic waste floats, the rest sinks to the depths, notes the president of the CESTA Technology Center in El Salvador, Ricardo Navarro.

The United Nations Environment Program has warned that a total of 11 million tons of plastic are dumped into the oceans each year, and that figure could triple again in the next 20 years.

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