Newly-dredged lake poses new safety threats

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Tuesday, February 5, 2013


SAFETY guidelines for boating activities at Burnham Lake are still being finalized even with the current peak in tourist arrivals and with concessionaires already resuming their boat rentals in the lake since last week.

Mayor Mauricio Domogan is currently finalizing the guidelines through an Administrative Order setting rules to be followed by boating concessionaires and patrons while enjoying boating activities at the newly-dredged lake.

City Environment and Parks Management Officer (Cepmo) Cordelia Lacsamana said her office has forwarded the guidelines to Domogan to ensure the safety of boating patrons in Burnham Park most especially children.

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Lacsamana said that before the dredging activities, some 17,000 million liters of water were removed from the lake, which was then just some four to five feet deep due to siltation.

But with the recent P20.9 million rehabilitation works conducted by the Department of Public Works and Highways and the removal of silt and embedded trash, the Cepmo department head said the lake will now be around 10 feet deep based on design specifications.

Based on the existing water line, some 34 million liters of water will be contained in the lake’s recently cemented perimeter enclosure. With this anticipated volume of water and when the uniform level of water is reached, Lacsamana said safety measures should be in place to ensure the safety of boating patrons and to avoid drowning incidents.

Initially, she said children below three years old “are not allowed to ride boats rented out in the lake except when they are accompanied by their parents and this will be at their own risk.”

She said boat passengers should also know the risks of the deepened lake with boat concessionaires training their employees on safety before renting out their boats, as well as provide available trained personnel to respond to emergencies.

Other guidelines provide for concessionaires to show orient boat passengers on boat safety, observe ideal boat capacity, place signages of existing water depth, and provide rescue and life support equipment, such as life vests.

However, Lacsamana said boat concessionaires told them they could not afford to buy life vests that are expensive.

She said concessionaires are temporarily using tire interiors placed in the boats and standby tire interiors to be used in rescuing passengers who may fall off the boat.

Boats being rented out in the lake have also not been inspected for their safety before resuming their operations last week.

She said the parks management office will coordinate with the Philippine National Red Cross and the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council in training boat rental employees in basic life rescue and support during emergencies.

The City Government is also looking at the possibility of providing life guards in the area, she added.

“Even with how much we try to ensure the safety of the public, accidents can happen, and it is important for the boat concessionaires to respond to these situations and not be the first to panic,” Lacsamana said.

While the lake has not yet reached its ideal water level, the Cepmo chief said this is the right time to train concessionaires of their responsibilities to ensure the safety of boat passengers.

While initial plans to place crushed rocks and boulders in the bottom of the lake were not reached due to depleted funds, she said there is still the future possibility of silt to accumulate in the bottom of the lake.

She also said that with continued flooding at the Central Business District, water containing sediments and trash will eventually end up in the Burnham Lake and will eventually result to siltation through the years.

Lacsamana said the lake has the lowest elevation in the Central Business District, which means flood waters will eventually flow to the lake and this continued siltation could only be addressed if flooding will also be abated in the city’s downtown area.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on February 05, 2013.

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