Canada’s Lake Winnipeg is “Threatened Lake of the Year 2013”

Canada’s third largest freshwater lake in serious trouble

by Obert Madondo The Canadian Progressive, Feb. 4, 2013:

Recent NASA satellite photo of the toxic green algae on Lake Winnipeg

Recent NASA satellite photo of the toxic green algae on Lake Winnipeg

A report by a Germany-based international environmental foundation is reminding Canadians of the consequences of neglecting the responsibility to protect the environment.  On World Wetland Day, Feb. 2, the Global Nature Fund (GNF) declared Lake Winnipeg the “Threatened Lake of the Year 2013“.

The foundation chooses the most threatened lake in the world annually.

“That this huge Canadian lake is faced with problems similar to those of lakes in more densely populated countries is hard to believe,” the foundation said on its website.

Past winners of the infamous award include Africa’s Lake Victoria, the Dead Sea in the Middle East and Lake Titicaca in South America.

The foundation blames sewage discharge and nutrients and pesticides prevalent agricultural run-off for a blueish-green algae that is poisoning Canada’s third-largest freshwater lake. The algae imbalances “the lake’s food web and can be toxic to humans.”

The economy of Manitoba and millions of people depend on a healthy Lake Winnipeg for jobs, food and recreation.  The Lake contributes $100 million a year to the provincial tourism industry. The commercial fishing industry brings in $25 million annually.

Parts of Lake Manitoba have pristine boreal forests and rivers that are potential candidates for UN World Heritage designation.

“This is one distinction that the Lake Winnipeg Foundation does not want to see coming to our province,” the independent charitable ENGO, Lake Winnipeg Foundation (LWF), had said just after the lake was nominated for the award in January. The LWF has worked to rehabilitate and protect the the lake, its wetlands, and the watershed since 2006.

“This is a wake-up call for all of us Manitobans,” said Vicki Burns, Outreach Coordinator for the Lake Winnipeg Foundation. “Our lake is now being talked about in similar terms as some of the world’s foremost environmental lake disasters.”

The Global Nature Fund said “the restoration of  Lake Winnipeg will only be possible if governments, agriculture, industry, environmental organisations, and communities work together”. Kat Hartwig from Living Lakes Canada added that “Canadians are asking their government to reinstate environmental legislation that formerly ensured a high level of protection of Canadian lakes and wetlands.”

Would the pro-business Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper listen? In recent years, the Conservatives have made numerous anti-democratic policy changes that have eroded the country’s environmental protections and left ecosystems vulnerable. Last December, the the Harper Government abandoned the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change.  The government’s Bill C-45,  a 443-page omnibus “budget bill”, passed last year, eliminated thousands of lakes, rivers and streams from federal protection.

The passage of Bill C-45 has sparked a wave of peaceful protests by the Idle No More indigenous grassroots movement, Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa SpenceFirst Nations leaders and their allies in Canada and beyond.

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