Massive fish kill turns Lake Bito into dead zone-A A +A
Saturday, August 4, 2012
MACARTHUR, Leyte - The massive fish kill in Lake Bito that occured months back has left a mark on the face of 64-year-old Diosdado Bausal as he recalled how the lake turned out to be a dead zone.
From abundant 3,000 kilograms (kg) yield of tilapia fish, Bausal’s five-hectare fish pen only yielded 600 kg following the series of fish kill incidents.
“It’s like a mix of coffee and milk and it smells bad,” Bausal described the strange water color perceived by the community to be the cause of widespread fish mortalities.
Few meters away from the passageway of Lake Bito in Villa Imelda village is a magnetite sand extraction site, a joint project of Nicua Mining Corporation and Leyte Ironsand Corporation.
Last December 6, 2010, the mining firms had secured a 25-year permit from MGB (Mines and Geosciences Bureau) to extract black sand in the towns of MacArthur and Javier in Leyte.
A fisherman, Lito Tiozon narrated, “The company’s barges blocked the water ways causing the back flowing of mine tailings that reached fishing grounds,” Tiozon said.
The Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) confirmed on its findings the stopper placed to mitigate possible backflow has not functioned last May 12 due to the high volume of water that came out from mine pond causing the backflow of water towards the lake.
“There was a negligence of their barged operators who accordingly, acted on their own volition in opening the pond which triggered the backflow of water into the lake,” the report said signed by EMB senior environmental management specialist Leo Santiago Dacanay.
Massive fish mortalities in the lake were first reported by fisherfolks in March 14, 2012. The same incident occurred last April 7 and May 12, this year. The incident has resulted to deaths of around 22,000 kg of tilapia valued at P1.7 million.
In a study conducted by Nancy Dayap, environmentalist of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) she disclosed that the fish kill incidents in Bito was caused by domestic pollution, overcrowding of fish pens and cages, and contamination from the nearby mining site.
Camila Wang, director of Leyte Ironsand, got upset with the BFAR report that oil and grease reached the lake. “How come liquids from a lower level reach a higher place? People should know the truth.”
Elmer Ragas, resident manager of Nicua Mining Corporation, said in an earlier interview that the mining site activity was about 400 meters away from the lake, which is rather far for them to be accused of being responsible to the contamination of the lake.
The mining firm was ordered by EMB to pay P50,000 penalty due to ineffective system that would prevent lake contamination. The fixed amount is based on the rate prescribed under Presidential Decree 1586.
The new zoning ordinance will only allow each fisher folks to own a half a hectare of fish pens but BFAR suggested that instead of fish pens, the local government should promote the use of fish cages in order to benefit more residents. (Leyte Samar Daily Express)