Lake Titicaca in the Andes has been named “Threatened Lake of the Year” for the second time in eleven years. The “Global Nature Fund” (GNF) and the “Living Lakes” network awarded the sad title again for 2023 after 2012 to the largest freshwater lake in South America. Lake Titicaca, which borders Bolivia and Peru, lies at 3,800 meters on a plateau and is around 15 times the size of Lake Constance.

The title of “Endangered Lake of the Year” is awarded annually on World Wetlands Day on February 2 to draw attention to a lake or wetland threatened by human encroachment. The renewed choice of Lake Titicaca was justified by the GNF, an international foundation for the environment and nature based in Radolfzell, with the environmental pollution to which the lake has been exposed for years – and which is increasing.

“The importance of the body of water for humans and its ecological exploitation are in a particularly striking disproportion,” says biology Thomas Schaefer from the GNF. For two million Peruvians and Bolivians, Lake Titicaca is important as a drinking water reservoir. The indigenous people of the Urus, for example, use the reeds on the shore to make their houses, boats and even the island on which they live. Hundreds of thousands of tourists a year visit the lake high in the Andes.

But sewage from cities like Puno and Juliaca in Peru and El Alto in Bolivia, pesticides from agriculture and heavy metals from sometimes illegal mining pollute the deep blue lake. Fish and frogs die, some species disappear forever. Politicians in both countries have repeatedly promised measures – so far without significant results, criticize environmentalists.