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article imageA massive ‘tsunami’ of plastic waste covers Honduras beaches

By Karen Graham     Sep 23, 2020 in Environment
A massive wave of trash has washed up on the beaches of Omoa in northern Honduras, leaving pristine tropical beaches blighted by piles of garbage. The trash, bobbing in the ocean and piled up on the beach, is mostly plastic refuse.
Much like a tsunami, the wave of garbage is just as deadly, not only to the area’s tourist-dependent beaches, but to the ecology of the region, according to Voice of America News.
Honduran officials say the wave of trash has come from the mouth of the Motagua River in neighboring Guatemala. "This wave of trash which came from the Motagua River really surprised us, and even though it caused problems, it has not stopped our activities," Honduran environment official Lilian Rivera said.
"We are committed to cleaning our beaches and keeping them clean, but today we are demanding that authorities in Tegucigalpa take strong actions, actions to find a permanent solution to this problem." (Tegucigalpa is the capital of Honduras).
In response, the Honduran government has sent an official complaint to Guatemala asking the neighbor nation to take immediate steps to halt the trash washing out to sea, reports VOA News.
River of garbage
The Motagua River is the largest river in Guatamala, reaching two-thirds of the way across the Central American isthmus, 300 miles from its source in the remote central highlands of the country to its mouth on the Caribbean’s Mesoamerican Reef.
On its journey to the Caribbean, the river passes Guatemala City, the country’s busy capital, crowded with 3 million people and creased with deep ravines that, in the rainy season, funnel floodwaters loaded with refuse and waste to the river.
The tide of refuse is aided by the fact that there are almost no properly managed landfills and virtually no public water treatment plants in Guatamala. According to The Intercept, this results in a "noxious chowder of sewage, industrial and agricultural runoff, and an ever-replenished flotilla of plastic trash, churning out from the river mouth toward the massive Mesoamerican reef."
Bridge over the Motagua River connecting Gualán with the village of Mayuelas  Zacapa  Guatemala.
Bridge over the Motagua River connecting Gualán with the village of Mayuelas, Zacapa, Guatemala.
The Mesoamerican Reef is the second-longest stretch of coral in the world, and the largest coral reef in the Western Hemisphere. Also known as the Great Mayan Reef, it extends more than 600 miles from Isla Contoy at the northern tip of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula to the Bay Islands in Honduras.
In 2017, the Honduran government threatened Guatemala with a lawsuit unless something was done to remedy the problem. Guatemala’s environmental minister introduced a device he dubbed the “bio-fence.” Made of empty plastic bottles roped together with plastic netting.
Because the river is so polluted and just plain dirty, fishing in segments of it are not safe. Even worse, downriver from Guatamala City, in the states of states of El Progreso and Zacapa, water is becoming a bigger problem. With the river too contaminated to use for drinking water or irrigation, people are caught in a vise of scarcity of water and environmental pollution.
But with human activity in the "business as usual" mode when it comes to doing something constructive and real to stem the flow of plastics and other environmental impacts caused by human pollution, it is hoped than an agreeable end will come to this latest problem.
More about Honduras, plastic waste, Motagua River, Guatamala, ecological and economic damage
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