BOAC, Marinduque – A Beema bamboo nursery was opened at the Marinduque State College (MSC) here Tuesday to propagate this type of bamboo tree that would help absorb toxic substances left by the Marcopper mining disaster in Marinduque province back in 1996.
The initiative was led by the Department of Health’s (DOH) office in the Mimaropa region (Occidental and Oriental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan), the MSC, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and Marinduque’s provincial government.
In an interview Tuesday, MSC president, Dr. Merian Catajay-Mani, said the Beema bamboo will eventually be planted in several municipalities of Marinduque to help absorb toxic substances in the air, soil and water, as well as on a 34-hectare area left behind by the Consolidated Minings Inc. to turn it into an ecotourism destination.
In August 1996, a leak was discovered in the drainage tunnel of a Marcopper Mining pit.
This led to the discharge of more than 1.6 million cubic meters of tailings into the Makulapnit-Boac river system, rendering it unusable and severely affecting people who depended on it for their livelihood. Health issues, such as skin irritations and respiratory problems, also emerged among residents.
More than 20 years since the environmental disaster, some residents have been showing symptoms of exposure to residues of mine tailings, prompting DOH-Mimaropa and an inter-agency regional task force consisting of various government agencies and stakeholders to formulate an intervention.
One of their recommendations is the planting of Beema bamboo trees in areas affected by the disaster.
According to Catajay-Mani, a Beema bamboo could release up to 12 tons of oxygen in the atmosphere and can sequester 20 tons to 49 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
To put up the bamboo nursery, DOH-Mimaropa released PHP3 million to MSC two months ago, while the state college contributed PHP500,000 to the initiative, Mani said.
"(We have) 25,000 saplings. After three months, we will be able to multiply these by three or four. So we're going to have 100,000 seedlings, using the technology that I have discovered in a research on bamboo I conducted in 2009," she said.
The bamboo trees could be harvested in three years and could be propagated further.
She added that the products to be derived from the harvested bamboo could be processed into material for furniture, floors, walls, even bridges, and could thus be a source of livelihood for the local community.
"I do believe that (the Beema bamboo) has an effect (on the environment). Only nature can heal itself but we need people to assist it," DOH-Mimaropa regional director Eduardo Janairo said in a separate interview.
He said people should band together in searching for solutions to the health issues left behind by the mining disaster.
Janairo, representatives of partner agencies and Marinduque Governor Carmencita Reyes led the planting of Beema bamboo seedlings in Sitio Ulong, Barangay Capayang, in Mogpog, Marinduque.
He said the DENR is leading the testing of toxicity levels in the soil, air and water, especially in areas that were affected by the Marcopper mining disaster. (PNA)