Environmental Issues Affecting Lake Nicaragua, Nicaragua
Nicaragua’s largest lake, Lake Nicaragua, has a surface of 8,264 km². Located in the central southern part of the country (and visible here near the image center), the oval-shaped lake is relatively uncontaminated, although some serious environmental issues pose a real threat for its future, particularly if preventative steps are not taken.
There are three principal contamination threats. The main problems and source of contamination for Lake Nicaragua are related to the discharge of wastewater that comes from the urban zones at the shores of the lake. In spite of the clear contamination that results from this practice, large cities as Granada, Rivas and Juigalpa and many small towns still lead their sewage from residential areas but even from industrial zones to the lake (either directly or through a river that terminates in the lake). Consequently, coastal areas close to these urban centers have to deal with the waste that is not biodegradable which surfaces in front of the settlements.
The second largest problem comes from the agricultural industry in the coastal areas. The fertile soil next to the lake provides a great site for cattle farming and plantations. In the departments of Chontales, Boaco and Rivas there are many places where people farm without protecting the lake whatsoever, leading to contamination with enormous quantities of fertilizers ending up in the water. Another even more important impact is caused by the nearby agricultural haciendas that contaminate the rivers flowing into the lake by the unprotected usage of chemicals at their plantations. This problem is mostly visible at the southern side of the lake on Nicaraguan territory but also on Costa Rican soil (as these rivers also terminate in Lake Nicaragua).
The third problem is a controversial issue related to the recent introduction of new fish species inside floating cages in the lake. Although the foreign firm that develops this project obtained the governmental permits and even though the fish breeding has already started, there has been strong disapproval by ecologists, social organizations and communities ever since the beginning. The problem, the critics point out, is that the huge quantity of Tilapia fish generates large waste quantities that the lake has to adsorb. The biologists also warn that the Tilapia might bring diseases that the endemic fish are not prepared for (click here for more information).