Article contributed by Sune

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In 2009 we witnessed the first sign the lake was suffering: massive Cyanobacterial Blooms, which still today remains a major issue. This has resulted in many species of local wildlife declining – some to the point of extinction. Government support into this problem has been lacking and for a problem that needs urgent action.

Facing these facts, as a local community driven movement (made up by international residents and local Kaqchikel indigenousness residents) in San Marcos la Laguna, we have been taking actions towards restoring these vital environmental symbiosis.

Tul is a local plant, which is especially important for the health of the lake. Its presence sadly no longer dominates the shores of the Lake, due to the sudden rising of water level some years ago, and lack of education on its importance and responsible harvesting.

As Cyanobacteria is mainly caused by excess input of nutrients, which the local Tul plants are natural designed to absorb and fixate, our group is dedicated to reforesting these vital plants in our area, and continuously promoting awareness and action taken on this important topic around the lake. With the decline of tul, comes the decline of all other living aquatic fauna in the lake, and ancestral practices.

The benefits of Tul:
* It is a natural filter for pollutants running from the shore.
* Controls the Cyanobacteriael bloom since it is a natural competitor for the consumption of phosphorus and nitrogen.
* It is the habitat for animal species (fish, crustaceans and molluscs, migratory birds) and of economic importance to human populations and the ecosystem of the lake.  It is a source of raw materials for various crafts of the area.

The forestation of Tul provides security for continuation of ancient indigenous handcraft trades, culture and spiritual practices. These have been used since the first indigenous inhabited the shores of lake Atitlan, 4000 of years ago!

Bringing back Tul, will not only help restore of the ecosystem of Lake Atitlan, rescue ancient cultural practices, but also provide locals with sustainable economic income, as these handcrafts are made, sold and used in the local area.

The project also directly benefits the local fishermen in San Marcos La Laguna, who have, with our encouragement, made a committee to take care of these plants. They will, in the delicate first stages of the reforestation, receive salary for planting, maintaining, protecting the plants. The “Heart of Tul”, RUKUX CHUPUP, as they call the group, are dedicated to to such work, as it also benefits them indirectly.

It is our goal to be a role model town, to inspire others municipalities around, to step up, and take an active role in helping Lake Atitlan. With this action we have managed to plant enough Tul, to revive the local ecosystem, and show the way forward for other towns.

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Whether you live here or are just visiting we invite you to join us at our planting events and be part of a movement that will safeguard the lake for generations to come.

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