Article appeared in the Jan. 16, 2013 issue of the Interlake Enterprise, by Teresa Carey…
Lake Winnipeg has been nominated as “Threatened Lake of the Year, 2013” by the Living Lakes Canada, an affiliate of the Global Nature Fund (GNF), the organization that created the International Living Lakes network.
Each year GNF chooses the most threatened lake in the world. This year’s “winner” will be announced on Feb. 2, during World Wetland Day.
GNF is a non-profit, private, independent international foundation that works for the protection of the environment and nature, with its headquarters in Germany. It was founded in 1998 with the objective to foster the protection of nature and environment, including animals.
Similarly, Living Lakes Network Canada works for the protection of Canada’s freshwater resources. Its mandate is to link science to action by supporting water stewardship efforts in Canada and beyond.
“Many people in Germany and throughout Europe believe environmental problems hardly occur
in Canada,” said GNF’s Udo Gattenlohner in a Jan. 10 press release.
“However, recent changes in Canadian policies seem to be eroding the protection particularly of vulnerable water ecosystems—and it is disappointing because this does not really fit with our image of Canada…Despite the efforts and good intentions of concerned Manitobans, Canada’s international environmental reputation has been down-graded to below that of a developing nation,” Gattenlohner said.
Coordinator of the Lake Winnipeg Watershed initiative, Viki Burns who works with the Lake Winnipeg Foundation, commented on the nomination in a recent Canada Water blog post.
“The nomination is one distinction that the Lake Winnipeg Foundation does not want to see coming to our province. I think this should be a wake-up call for all of us Manitobans. When our lake is being talked about in similar terms as some of the world’s foremost environmental lake disasters, we need to pay attention,” she said.
“Despite the serious threat and dubious distinction, the Lake Winnipeg Foundation staunchly believes that Lake Winnipeg can be turned around and moved toward a cure,” said Burns.
Some of the factors identified as contributing to our lake’s decline are urban waste water, agricultural run-off, loss of wetlands and major flooding events.
There is growing awareness of what the average person can do to help reverse the trend on ever-increasing algal blooms in Lake Winnipeg, which are largely caused by phosphorous entering the water basin.
Local initiatives, like recycling initiatives, clearly labelled Lake Friendly products, and even initiatives at schools, such as Gimli High School’s Enviro-club and the school division’s commitment to sustainability, are all examples of how local people are helping at a grass roots level.
In addition, with the help of both federal and provincial funding, organizations like the East Interlake Conservation District (EICD) have numerous programs directly aimed at the problem.
A Lake Friendly campaign has identified numerous other ways our communities can help work toward a healthy outcome for Lake Winnipeg. Some of their suggestions include buying certified ‘Lake Friendly’ cleaning and personal care products to reduce harmful chemicals and phosphorus entering lakes, rivers and streams; Eliminating cosmetic fertilizers and pesticides or using them responsibly; Taking advantage of water saving products to reduce the amount of water requiring wastewater treatment; Protecting wetlands and natural shorelines which act as water filters; Maintaining and servicing septic systems regularly; Supporting upgrades to waste water treatment to prevent contamination of ground water, lakes and rivers.
(For more information visit www.lakefriendly.ca)