Goal 6.6: To protect and re-establish water-related ecosystems

Goal 6.6: To protect and re-establish water-related ecosystems
2016. Lake Atitlán (Guatemala), Foto: José Luis Armayor © José Luis Armayor

Goal 6.6: To protect and re-establish water-related ecosystems

Goal 6.6 is «by 2030, to protect and re-establish water-related ecosystems, including forests, mountains, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes». On a general level, this Goal aims to halt the constant and accelerated degradation which continental bodies of water and their corresponding ecosystems have suffered over the past few decades; also, to regenerate those which are already badly damaged. In such cases, the fight against climate change and desertification comes into play. Special attention is also paid to the more sensitive and vulnerable ecosystems such as lakes and all kinds of wetland (continental, coastal, etc…), which are a source of a rich variety of biodiversity and landscapes and frequently a source of food resources for poor populations who live from sustainable fishing.

Lake Amatitlán, which is in the Departamento de Sololá (Guatemala), is regarded, on a global level, as one of the most impressive natural, continental bodies of water, and its surroundings are stunning landscapes. According to the most commonly accepted theory, the lake is of volcanic origin due to the collapse of the crater of a strato-volcano and to the blocking of river valley because of volcanic activity. The lake is deep, reaching down up to 335 metres, according to the latest bathymetric studies, and has a surface area of 130 km2.

Although Lake Amatitlán has been much luckier than his brother, which lies on the outskirts of Guatemala City and is now completely eutrophicated, degradation in the quality of the water has been detected over time, the clearest evidence of which is the presence of ever more frequent outbreaks of cyanobacteria every year. This contamination is linked to the untreated wastewater of nearby populations, and fertilisers in the river basin.

Currently, both civil society and NGOs international organisations are trying to improve the situation by slowing the environmental deterioration by creating sewage treatment plants, as is the case with FCAS who have sewage plants at San Marcos de la Laguna and San José de Chacayá, as well as by managing and building disposal sites for solid urban waste. It is hoped that over the next few years, a definite solution is addressed to the problem, based on the different models and methodologies which have been proposed to improve the environmental quality of the water: from creating a “receptor ring” for wastewater around the lake, to extending construction of sewage treatment plants to al urban centres and control over fertilisers.