Magazine article Geographical

Altitude Sickness

Magazine article Geographical

Altitude Sickness

Article excerpt

After decades of neglect, a major clean-up of Lake Titicaca is underway, but will it be sufficient?

Despite the importance it holds to the local people of Puno and the surrounding Katari area for their daily supply of fish and drinking water, Lake Titicaca--at 3,810m, the world's highest large lake (pictured right) --has been left largely to fend for itself when it comes to hygiene. In October 2016, tens of thousands of critically endangered Titicaca water frogs were found dead, their bodies overwhelmed by toxins in the water. It's just one result of pollutants that have been flowing in increasing quantities into Cohana Bay, near the tourist spot of Copacabana, for decades.

The key culprit: the 1.2 million residents of El Alto, 60km to the southeast. As the city has rapidly grown (from only 95,000 inhabitants in 1976) so has its waste supply. A recent study led by the French National Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD) identified metals, pharmaceutical residues, nutrients (such as nitrate, phosphate, and ammonium), and faecal bacteria such as E. coli in the city's wastewater--resulting in suffocating eutrophication, and making the lake unsuitable for consumption, or for the harvesting of fish. …

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