Tuesday, February 09, 2010

quo vadis?

You know my friend the laguna is dying.

So, why is it happening and what can be done?

This is where the local rumor mill kicks into high gear.  I cannot verify the accuracy of any of the purported causes.  I only report what I hear.
  • Lax local regulations are high on everyone's list.  As an example, Pemex is building a new gas station (What else would they build?  A space shuttle tracking station?) on fill that is currently being dumped onto the wetlands of the laguna.  The allegation is that it violates land use regulations -- even though the local authority approved the permit.  The irony is that a recently disused Pemex station sits no more than 200 meters down the highway from the new building site.
  • Sewage discharges directly from homes into the laguna -- causing the nitrogen level to increase and the hyacinths to flourish.
  • Nitrogen from upstream farms are causing the same result.
  • Local authorities attempted to cut the water hyacinths in 2008.  But they failed to gather up the chopped pieces.  Each piece resulted in a new hyacinth plant.  Thus, the mess we see today.

Without proper studies, no one knows exactly what the source of the problem is.  I suspect, though, that the rumor mill has uncovered most of them.  All of the speculation appears to be based on some semblance of reason.

Those of us who have nursed on the milk of NOB politics will raise a sagely eyebrow and pronounce: "We must deal with the root causes, not just the symptoms."

But, there are times, like this, where the symptoms may actually be the disease.  Getting those hyacinths out of the way would certainly be a good start.  Then someone could deal with root causes.

That means getting someone with authority concerned enough to remove most of the hyacinths.

And there is the rub.  "Someone" who? 

The local government has a very mixed record on issues concerning the laguna.  The Pemex project is a good example.  But a new administration just came to power in January.  Perhaps, there will be some interest there.

The laguna is within the federal control zone.  And it would have the authority to do something about the hyacinths.  But ours would be only one project in a country with a severe water problem.

Faced with a similar situation in Salem, my neighbors would band together and do something.  Our tradition is that personal responsibility trumps government inaction.

I was afraid that option was not available here.  The Iberian-Catholic tradition imposed over the top of Mexico's native culture is that power descends down, not the other way round.

But my neighbors have surprised me.  A local committee formed -- the same group that sponsored Mexico Day -- to save the  laguna.  The people of Melaque decided they could -- and must -- show their civic concern.  From the grass roots up.

I don't think anyone has a good idea how this will all end.  But some solution will present itself.  Perhaps, a private-public partnership.

But it has to happen soon.


Steve Cotton said...

For some reason, all of the comments you readers sent on this post have disappeared. I don't understand why.

Anonymous said...

I hope the group that is interested in saving the Laguna is able to find a solution to the problem and soon.


Steve Cotton said...

Mom -- Me too.

norm said...

The nitrogen levels are feeding the hyacinths, the easy way to cut down their food supply is to open up the area to a good tidal flushing twice a day. The sewage gets washed into the ocean but there is more water out there to soak up all that excess nitrogen. Not perfect but it will work. I think your lagoon is just getting too much food for the plants and the animals that would normally be eating the plants are not keeping up

Anonymous said...

i'm glad to see that such a group was formed and do hope they can resolve the issue. what a shame it would be if such a laguna were to disappear due to carelessness or lack of concern over the environment. hope they get to work on it quickly or there may not be much of a chance of recovery. i remember this same problem with many lakes and ponds in fl. luckily, they were dealt with in a timely fashion.

hope you're enjoying l.a.


Al said...

All that talk about "root causes" without blushing? I know you better than that.

Anonymous said...

The group may wish to approach PEMEX to help as part of a good PR strategy. I mean, PEMEX undoubtedly has enough money and influence to share for the cause. And approaching the company in a positive fashion might work to get them involved.

From another perspective, is there any creature that feeds on water hyacinths that could be introduced to the laguna? Preferably one that would not have other more disastrous environmental downsides -- like emerging from the laguna on nights of the full moon to eat young children and small dogs.


Chrissy y Keith said...

I say, start pulling the the weeds out by the roots and see who shows up to stop you. Then you will know who is responsible to get the "Laguna" well again.

Anonymous said...

(1) National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Space Technology Laboratories, NSTL Station, Mississippi

Received: 12 October 1979 Accepted: 27 October 1979

Abstract A 3-year study was conducted on an existing, one-cell, facultative sewage lagoon having a total surface area of 3.6 ha and receiving a BOD5 loading rate of 44 kglhald (40 Iblald). The comparative experimental periods ran from July through November for 3 consecutive years. During the first period, water hyacinths completely covered the lagoon. The water hyacinth coverage was reduced to 33% of the total surface area the second year. The lagoon, free of all vascular aquatic plants the third year, was monitored for comparative purposes. The most significant improvement overall in the effluent quality occurred when water hyacinths covered the entire lagoon. During this period the effluent BOD5 and TSS were 23 and 6 mgll, respectively. Without water hyacinths, the effluent BOD5 and TSS were 52 and 77 mgll, respectively. The effluent total organic carbon concentration with water hyacinths averaged 40 mgll, and without water hyacinths, 72 mgll. A discussion of the results from this 3-year study is presented in this paper along with associated problems that were observed when water hyacinths were introduced into the lagoon and altered its behavior from that of a normal facultative lagoon.

I am glad that the bells have been rung! Yes, much work will need to take place. I will be back to Melaque December next year for two months. Sign me up !

- Mexican Trailrunner said...

Steve, Amigos del Lago may be a good source of information for you. They have been remarkably successful in protecting the lake. It's a grassroots group and would welcome being in contact with you guys down there with all the same problems.


Anonymous said...

Are you getting into Euro-srtsy photographs?


- Mexican Trailrunner said...

A N M reminded me of another option they mulled over her at the lake. Manatees! Apparently they eat liros. So! There ya go!

It may be total rumor, don't know, but when they talked about it here the municipalities said no way were they going to spend all that money to import Manatees just to have them all be eaten!


Joe S. said...

"Against the wind, we were running against the wind, we're older now but still running against the wind"
thanks to Bob Seger

Anonymous said...

Steve - You might not remember the invasive plants at Devils Lake in Lincoln County that were choking the waterway. Here's a link to the PADL group who worked and are working to keep it clean. Maybe some of their strategies would help your and your laguna friends' work.

Adrienne on E Street

Anna said...

At least there is more awareness of the problem now. I have read that there is a type of weevil that can help eradicate the plants, but when it runs out of food will it attack other plants? Don't know.

Some other areas have used a careful, selective application of round-up.

We have been told that this time plant residue will be removed and dried on land to be available for compost.