Scientist urges gov’t to include Lake Lanao in Marawi rehab

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 6 July) – Lake Lanao should be included in the rehabilitation plan for war-ravaged Marawi City to prevent it from becoming a “dead zone in the future,” a Filipino research scientist at the Texas A&M University in Houston, Texas in the United States urged the government on Friday.

A portion of Marawi City’s Ground Zero with Lake Lanao in the background. MindaNews file photo by H. MARCOS C. MORDENO

In a press conference during the National Science and Technology Week at the SMX Convention Center Davao, Dr. Hernando Bacosa said the reconstruction of Marawi “is very complex problem that needs to be addressed in a “multidisciplinary approach” and encouraged the planners to devise a development plan to protect Lake Lanao.

Bacosa said the government should enlist scientists and innovators to come up with a better wastewater treatment plan for the lake as it has been suffering from “nutrient load and pollution” caused by the sprouting of houses and businesses in Marawi.

He called his technology a “bioremediation,” which uses “bacteria to degrade pollutants.”

“We have to make sure that there is a sound urban plan that includes a wastewater treatment plant so that wastewater can be filtered before it would end up in Lake Lanao,” he added.

Bacosa, an environmental chemistry and microbiology expert with a broad interdisciplinary background in molecular genetics and environmental sciences, feared the lake would become a “dead zone,” a lake that is no longer habitable for marine creatures if no conservation measures would be implemented.

He said there’s also a need to create environmental awareness about the lake which, he said, is rich in natural resources and hosts an important ecosystem.

He said pollutants in the lake include discharges from households like detergents and kitchen wastes, which are rich in nitrate and phosphate that promote overgrowth of bacteria and phytoplankton.

“When it reaches the marine environment, there will be more bacteria and phytoplankton that consume oxygen needed by the fish. When the plants die, there will be more bacteria that will consume more oxygen in the decomposition and time will come it cannot support anymore fish,” he explained.

The five-month siege between government forces and Islamic State-inspired Maute Group which erupted on May 23 last year destroyed the country’s lone Islamic city.

Bacosa obtained his degree in Biology in 2002 at the main campus of Mindanao State University in Marawi.

He completed his masters and doctorate degrees in environmental studies in Japan and post-doctorate fellowship at the University of Texas from 2013 to 2017 before becoming a research scientist at the Texan A&M University.

He is a participant in the Department of Science and Technology’s Balik Scientist program, which encourages Filipino scientists, technologists and experts to return to the country and share their expertise to promote scientific, agro-industrial, and economic development.

The “Balik Scientist is a science and technology expert who is a Filipino citizen or a foreigner of Filipino descent, residing abroad and contracted by the Government to return and work in the Philippines along his/her field of expertise.”

The program’s priority areas are agriculture and food, biotechnology, disaster mitigation and management, environment and natural resources, electronics, energy, genomics, health, ICT, manufacturing, nanotechnology, and semiconductors. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)