2008 environmental Status of Taal Lake
- Importance of Taal Lake environmentally
- Importance of Taal Lake socially and economically
- Importance as Historic Archeological site
- Percieved Threats
- Data to support theories
Taal Lake is circular in shape, approximately 15km long, and 10KM wide, with a volcanic island in the middle of it. It is approximately 50KM south of Manila
Importance of Taal Lake environmentally
Home to important endangered species.
Taal Lake is of International importance because it hosts 2 types of fish, that can be found only in this lake. These fish are oceanic fish in the ocean, commonly used for food internationally, that have adapted to this high sulfur, but fresh water, environment.
The dwindling catch of these fish, is already having an impact on local fishermen. The potential loss of the entire species, before they can be cultured and used to feed the hungry in other places, is an even bigger loss to the population of the world.
The “MALIPUTO” is a fresh water version of an oceanic Jack, commonly referred to, as “PAMPANO” is its salt water version.
The “TAWILIS” is a fresh water version of the common sardine. These fish are now under threat of extinction, due to the farming of TILAPIA in the lake.
The view of Taal Lake, from Tagaytay ridge, has long been the country’s number 1 tourist attraction. Having a large expanse, which is seemingly unpopulated, gives a feeling of relief to those who enjoy the view in this grossly overpopulated country. It should stay that way.
Until year 2000, the lake was relatively inaccessible. There was very little influx of people or business to the lake itself. Recent road building projects have changed this dramatically. Decentralization from Manila is now taking place, with the lake becoming a tourist attraction, and residents are now staying, and getting jobs in tourism establishments, or in the local economy, instead of flocking to Manila, and worsening THAT crisis.
Plant nurseries have been the mainstay of the local economy for decades. the soil is very fertile, and the business has improved with the construction of farm to market roads built in the last 10- 15 years. This business suits the area, and keeps many of the populace employed.
Resorts dot much of the lakeshore. The local economy is also growing due to the trickle down effect of wages now being paid to workers in local establishments. The local government is taxing trips to the volcano, bringing in new money from thousands of tourists annually.
A source of revenue for outside investors, fishcages cost around P1 Million each, on the average, and are therefore too expensive for the indigenous lake population. They are cash cows for their owners, as long as security of the fish is preserved.
This is very clear from the explosion of fishcages on the lake. There were virtually no fishcages in 1995. today, there are tens of thousands. The numbers are not recorded, because most do not have permits. The local government is tasked with issuing licenses, but the local governments do not have any boats or field force to monitor this largest potential source of revenue for government coffers. There does not seem to be any interest in monitoring the fishcages. We leave it to the reader to make their own conclusion as to why that might be.
PERCEIVED THREATS TO TAAL LAKE
Pollution from the general populace
Most of the “indigenous residents” live on or near the shore and are not wealthy. Many are illiterate. They are generally prone to have large families. A few have septic tanks. Fortunately, they do send their kids to public school, and conditions and awareness are quickly improving.
“New residents” are much more aware of the consequences of environmental degredation, and tend to be an asset to the environment by voicing concern over what is happening.
Pollution from Resorts.
Where not all of the tourism establishments have complied with local sanitation laws, the laws ARE in place, and are GENERALLY enforced. The local government is fairly strict in enforcing sanitation for new resorts, but it is not so strict with older resorts owned by powerful local politicians.
The Catholic Church owned the lot in town, that was the local dumpsite. in 2003, it had the dumpsite closed for “environmental reasons” and left the town without an alternative dumpsite. This forced local residents to dump their trash off the bridges, into dry creeks that led into the lake, only a few hundred meters downstream. A new dumpsite was recently established. However, the dumpsite of tagaytay, the town above Talisay, is on a creek that leads into the lake.
Pollution from Fishcage operations:
The fishcage industry is growing at an astronomical rate. and the caretakers are living on the cages, without any sanitation facilities, nor any place to dump their garbage, other than into the lake itself. The fishcage residents are not covered by local sanitation laws, and local government has no maritime presence with which to enforce any standards, even if they did exist.
The most MAJOR source of pollution, and the BIGGEST THREAT to Taal Lake:
The pollution of dumping human waste into the water by fishcage caretakers, or even all of their plastic shampoo sachets, or tens of thousands of no longer recyclable 50 kilo plastic bags, is not even 1 percent, of the real pollution that they cause.
Commercial fishfeeds, for Tilapia, are basically chicken manure, which is fortified with antibiotics, to keep the fish alive in the polluted water. It is reported that commercial fishfeeds are further fortified with gene altering hormones that make the fish grow faster, but can also trickle into the groundwater, over time, and cause birth defects.
The immediate effects of the dumping of this animal waste into the lake, can already be seen. Taal Lake is experiencing more and more fishkills, which according to the Bureau of fisheries, is the result of underwater gasses trapped under layers meter thick animal waste, suddenly breaking through the waste, during temperature inversions.
Water samples tested by the Department of Science and Technology show that the coliform levels are astronomical in fishcage areas, compared to resort areas, where fishcages are banned. They are even thousands of percent higher than lakeshore areas with communities with poor populations that have no sanitation facilities!
What is needed? Education programs and pamphlets to increase awareness among local voters. Maritime eco police that are beyond bribery. Legal support to enforce existing laws.
There is currently an effort to promote new laws, which will legalize the dumping of waste into the lake. The effort is for legalizinfg “SOME” fishcage operations. We know that this is just a ruse. 9 out of 10 fishcages are undoccumented.
We know that there is no way that current political will of the local politicians is adequate to stop the crisis that is ongoing. We need to stop laws that will legalize pollution, and we need to force the polluters out.
Even if we are able to remove all the fiscages tomorrow, It will take years, possibly decades, to clean the lake and put it back where it was. We do not have the luxury of time.