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Rising water of Lake Mainit in Caraga: boon or bane?

During the rainy season from November to March, the water level of Lake Mainit rises by at least one meter. When typhoons hit, the lake, which is shared by Agusan del Norte and Surigao del Norte in the Caraga Region, goes up as high as three meters, a team from the Mindanao State University reported.

Locals have called this yearly phenomenon guob. As much of the 62-km shoreline of Lake Mainit consists of rice fields, guob is particularly apparent when thousands of rice fields near the lake are flooded.

Alejandro Felecio, president of Lapucon Farmers Organization said that through the years, many farmers at Lake Mainit have come to understand the pattern.

“Neophyte farmers at Lake Mainit who do not understand the ‘guob’ will only encounter crop failure,” he said. Mr. Felecio added it is actually beneficial to the farmers since rotten rice stalks and leaves become natural fertilizers.

Kaiser B. Recabo, Jr., director of the Lake Mainit Development Alliance (LMDA), said there are two sides to the guob.

On one hand, the rising water is beneficial to the many fish species in the lake as it gives them more space. On the other hand, people who live by the lakeshore complain it destroys their properties.

Siltation, the LMDA director said, is the main cause of guob. Heavy rainfall can easily increase the lake level since water cannot get out considering Lake Mainit has only one outlet -- the 29 km Kalinawan River.

Through the years, Mr. Recabo said, there have been many suggestions to eradicate the guob. These suggestions, he said, include the dredging of the Kalinawan River, construction of a dike system and establishing of other siltation control infrastructures.

Another recommendation was to open up a portion of the mountain that separates Lake Mainit and the Mindanao Sea. Through this opening, the lake water can drain out and be utilized to generate hydroelectric power for the Caraga Region, the LMDA director said.

However, he said the above-mentioned suggestions and recommendations should be thoroughly studied first.

An 18-month feasibility study is under way to study the many options for Lake Mainit, Mr. Recabo said, noting the establishment of a hydroelectric power plant at Lake Mainit has long been on the drawing board of the government.

Based on the report of the Philippine Information Agency in 1994, then president of the National Power Corp. Guido A. Delgado authorized the Agusan Power Corp. to develop the Lake Mainit hydroelectric power plant in the town of Jabonga in Agusan del Norte.

In the Infrastructure Philippines 2010 Summit last month, Energy Secretary Jose Rene D. Almendras said one of the possible projects in Mindanao where the government and private sector could partner is a 25-megawatt Lake Mainit hydropower prospect in Jabonga. The Department of Energy estimated that the project will cost $62.50 million.

But in the ‘Limnological and Water Quality Assessment of Lake Mainit,’ Mindanao State University (MSU) researchers said “the plan to develop a hydroelectric generating plant that would tap Lake Mainit for its water source would certainly have a far-reaching impact on the biology and ecology of some important aquatic plant and animal species thriving in the lake.”

The MSU researchers added that anything that “would allow an excessive fluctuation of the water level in the lake would also have drastic impacts on the ecology of some lakeshore habitats and may end up seriously damaging important lake fisheries.”

Although Lake Mainit is only the fourth largest lake in the Philippines, with a total surface area of 17,060 hectares, it is the country’s deepest lake.

In a 1973 study of Lake Mainit, researcher William Lewis, Jr. found it has a maximum depth of 223 meters and a mean depth of 128 meters. In the recent MSU study, researchers found out that the lake has a maximum depth of 219 meters and mean depth of 122 meters -- a few meters short of the Lewis study. The different could be traced to siltation.

Mr. Lewis reported that the lake lies 27 meters above sea level while the more recent MSU-Naawan report showed that the lake lies 21 meters above sea level.

Towering mountains surround this lake. On the west side, the lake is separated from the Mindanao Sea by mountains as high as 600 meters. On the east side, the lake is flanked by mountains as high as 1,000 meters.

Lake Mainit is a highly productive wetland ecosystem. In a 1980-1981 study called “Fisheries yields and morphoedaphic index of Lake Mainit,” researchers headed by Daniel Pauly found 37 species of fish at the lake. However, in a 2007-2008 study, researchers from MSU found 41 species of fish.

Although the MSU researchers found more species, 13 species found by Mr. Pauly’s group were not on the list of the university-based researchers. (BusinessWorld)


Anonymous said...


I have made lots of comments,if not a flurry of suggestions, about this phenomenon for years now and it being cast again as a query and topic for 'SurigaoToday' is very interesting...
By putiing it in perspective, the most pressing issue that should be addressed and for everyone concerned to ask is, Will harnessing, utilizing, developing and/or put into good use, what mother nature has bestowed upon us be left alone for its natural beauty which conservationist, naturalist will chorus with a resounding yes! or ENSURE that its development, preservation, conservation, protection by virtue of a mandate or thru legislation be in place so that the pressing/surmounting problems we will come face-to-face (Potable water and Electric Needs)be addressed?
This quest or dilemma depending on how one views it, really needs to be discussed in length..i decided to post in parts with the main issues to be explored and thought-of, logically explained.

Anonymous said...

Why legislation? first we have to understand that Mainit lake is between two adjoining provinces and whose territorial boundaries 'may or may not' come into terms as to usage, right-of-ways, development of what, where, when and how big or small, who's on the giving or receiving end, whose area will be sacrificed or suffer from development, etc., the major components/departments of the National government (Energy, Natural Resources, Tourism, Agriculture to name a few) as to who passess-the-buck, points the finger to, so to speak, or the blame-game kind of thing will be specifically ironed and spelled out in a legal structure or format. secondly, LGU's who are in the vicinity and forms part of LMDA (for now it is what temporarily we refer Lake mainit's development or QAR quasi-autonomous-region) by said legislation will define their specific roles to, and not overlap in how the LMDA operates. another, is that towns and municipalities that are to be included as part of the LMDA or QAR will enjoy the benefits or previleges of the LMDA like priorities, lower energy cost and water allocation, but not allowed to sublet to non-member LGU's or resell such low cost price for their own benefit. the same will apply likewise to all other businesses that are within the scope and jurisdiction of said LMDA/QAR in order to take advantage of low production cost being part of it and follow guidelines that will protect, conserve, preserve the LMDA...these LGU's could still function like all other towns/municipalities in the election of ther mayors etc, local ordinances, the kind of roads or structures they want to have as long as it will follow normal safety requirements, it doesn't matter or no one can tell them not to paint their houses yellow on one side and red on the other, in other words, they still will function the same except on issues that is contrary to how the LMDA will be created. Also, the main tributaries to the lake and whatever areas that are proximate to the LMDA that needs to be developed and protected as watersheds to ensure sustainability, optimum water levels, and protect the lakes biodiversity.

Anonymous said...

continuing... with Legislation, checks and balances, one-stop processing, receiving and acting on issues pertinent to the LMDA as a whole or in part, could be addressed singlehandedly and put bureaucracy to a nil or thoroughly non-existent... another is to establish the benchmarks and goals, while at the same time focus its direction based on why the LMDA "is" and will be created and as such becomes a beacon or main mast to steer itself from its intended path...
With legislation in order , naturally comes appropriation and budgetary needs, first-things-first will implemented and that is the creation of a body tasked to administer the LMDA, followed by research and studies and recommendations for the infrastructures to be built or constructed and negotiate for the same with funds either from the public or private sector or foreign entities interested in investing in this endeavor.

while presently the LMDA has been established, the way it functions is at the mercy or the attention being alloted by the provincial governments that it is under, and while mutual cooperation is expected, the very mechanics of how it will operate and perform is not independent from political forces... for one, their tenure is not perpetual, secondly, you cannot be free to suspect that ulterior motives (political, personal, business interest) is not part of said equation specially if one is overly active than the other... to be morally prudent is to recuse themselves from being a part of it. with outside investors keen on investing, it is very easy to assess the viability of the said projects as no investor local or foreign, public or private is willing to risk Funds if they themselves have not done their own homework as to whether this is a 'go' or 'no-go' (Feasibility studies)...

Anonymous said...

Again with Legislation in place and administration functioning normally, preservation, conservation, prevention, pre-emption, policing must and will be instituted, promulgated, exercised, imposed, enforced within the context of the law. Any new ruling, measure or unforeseen criteria that rises to the level that is critical or imperative in nature, has to pass a certain period of discussion, testing and endorsed as a ballot measure or proposition, and duly ratified by electoral mandate in a referenda by LMDA constituents to warrant fair game and unbiased majority decision and not as a prerogative tool by the administration....

Anonymous said...

Side bar:
calling LMDA officials and its Director/s ...this is the best time for your office to make an aerial survey complete with pictures and slides as to the extent of the flooding and the sources of water (tributaries) with what mother nature can show in its entirety (or show us a glimpse) and be able to identify critical areas and plan/consider, formulate a masterplan on what needs priority, how the lake should be managed , in how to harness and make use, the lakes potentials... the extent of damages, the enbankments to be considered in and around the lake as this will give an overall picture to the query Lake Mainit's rising and ebbing: a boon or bane..

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