El Salvador’s largest reservoir becoming choked with garbage

By Sara Acosta

Potonico, El Salvador, Sep 9 (EFE).- Plastic bottles, glass jars, discarded shoes and other refuse are threatening the viability of El Salvador’s Cerron Grande reservoir and the survival of the fish and birds that inhabit the ecosystem.

Created in 1973 by the construction of the Cerron Grande hydroelectric dam, the reservoir – known locally as Lake Suchitlan, covers 135 sq km (51 sq mi) and is an internationally designated wetland.

The hydroelectric dam plays a crucial role in the Salvadoran energy grid and fishing is the backbone of the area economy.

Yet in recent weeks, the accumulation of trash in the reservoir has reached the point where fishing has practically ceased.

The mayor of Potonico, a town of some 2,500 people 97 km (60 mi) northeast of San Salvador, told Efe that while seeing garbage in the water is not a new phenomenon, the sheer volume has expanded dramatically.

“There is now more than 5,000 tons of refuse of all kinds,” Jacinto Tobar said.

The garbage, according to the mayor, originates in the San Salvador metropolitan area.

“It’s not a problem of a month ago, it’s a problem of long standing, but it had not appeared at this magnitude. The quantity of garbage and refuge is alarming,” Tobar said, adding that authorities have only manage to remove roughly 100 tons of trash from Cerron Grande.

All but 20 percent of Salvadoran rivers “are contaminated,” serving as repositories for tons of garbage, the Environment Ministry says.

The mess is jeopardizing the reservoir’s avian population, which includes examples of more than 100 different species.

“The bad practice of throwing garbage in the street ends up making this situation worse and it is we, the people of Potonico, who bear the problem,” Tovar said. EFE sa/dr

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