By Sam Chanesman
We started our morning with an early 15-minute train ride to Lake Muzzano near Lugano, where we met with Professor Brack Hale, who teaches Environmental Science and Biology at Franklin International University. We arrived at the beautiful lake, and were surprised to learn that it was actually one of the most polluted lakes in the area. After taking a seat, Brack told us about Switzerland and its relationship with water. We learned about how the Swiss supply a good amount of water to Western Europe from their freshwater glaciers and lakes, and that they have many fresh water and ground water sources. However, there are still pollution issues that come with these sources. These include agriculture run-offs and human wastes. While the wastewater treatment plants are some of the most advanced in Europe, they still have difficulty processing certain wastes like medicines. Much of this pollution runs into other surrounding countries, so although they aren’t a part of the European Union, the Swiss have made many treaties with EU countries to align themselves with European Union Policy, especially regarding water.
After this discussion, we were asked to walk around the lake and identify the challenges the lake poses for the surrounding landscape and to think about the many different aspects that affect the lake including wildlife and people. Located in a wealthy residential area of Lugano, Lake Muzzano is owned by a Swiss nature conservancy that has been working to protect and keep the lake clean. This includes making sure it is being properly used, especially since there was a significant amount of human waste in it from poor infrastructure early on. While a better piping system is in place, large rainfalls can overwhelm the system. The lake, though relatively small as Swiss lakes go, is particularly important because of its proximity to the residential area and its location as a major stopping point on the migratory pattern of hundreds of bird species. After regrouping and sharing what we saw, we were asked to start brainstorming some solutions to the problems that the lake had and what could be done about them.
Next we took the train back to Lugano, where we had a picnic lunch by Lake Lugano, surrounded by the mountains. Brack showed us some of his favorite spots and then we had some free time to explore the city. My group and I walked around the cobblestone streets for a while and climbed many of the countless stairs before stopping to get some coffee and check out some local shops. Afterwards, we headed back to the Steger Center in Riva. We continued the Lake Muzzano conversation with a lecture by Professor Moomaw on water in the European Union and were introduced to our group project instructions, which was to create a clear solution to the issues we saw in Lake Muzzano. After breaking into groups, we began preparing for presentations the next day. Finally, we watched a documentary on the control of the water by major corporations in the United States and around the world.