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EDITORIAL - Threatened wetlands

(The Philippine Star) - February 3, 2014 - 12:00am

Yesterday the country was conferred an award of sorts. The so-called Seven Lakes of San Pablo, Laguna, particularly the crater lake named Sampaloc, received the “Threatened Lake of the Year” award from the Global Nature Fund.

Overfishing and water pollution now threaten the viability of the lake, according to the Germany-based environmental group, whose selection coincides with the annual observance of World Wetlands Day. A foundation working to save the Seven Lakes noted the proliferation of illegal settlers and commercial structures along the lake, as well as illegal fish pens and overcrowding of fish cages.

The Friends of the Seven Lakes Foundation reports that residents of San Pablo avoid buying locally produced tilapia – the principal fish species raised in the fish pens – because the lake is so polluted.

Lake Sampaloc and the Seven Lakes aren’t the only wetlands threatened with environmental degradation in this country. Wetlands, including marshes, are typically regarded as barriers to agriculture and other human activities. Marshes have been drained and reclaimed as a result.

In Agusan del Sur, increased human activities also meant attacks by the natural denizens of the Agusan Marsh – the saltwater crocodile. Deadly attacks prompted a hunt that led to the capture of Lolong, certified as the biggest of its kind to be kept in captivity. The extraction from its natural habitat is believed to have contributed to Lolong’s early demise.

Lolong’s habitat is a protected area under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, or the Ramsar Convention of 1971. The marsh needs better management if its ecological system is to be preserved. There are other wetlands that need protection throughout this archipelago.

This year, World Wetlands Day emphasizes that wetlands and agriculture as well as certain other human activities can go hand in hand. People have a stake in preserving lakes and other wetlands. The effort can start with the rehabilitation of the “Threatened Lake of 2014.”

AGUSAN MARSH FRIENDS OF THE SEVEN LAKES FOUNDATION GLOBAL NATURE FUND IN AGUSAN LAKE LAKE SAMPALOC AND THE SEVEN LAKES LOLONG RAMSAR CONVENTION WETLANDS WORLD WETLANDS DAY
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