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Toxin-absorbing bamboo to help clean Marcopper disaster area

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By Philippines News Agency

Boac, Marinduque – A Beema bamboo nursery was opened at the Marinduque State College (MSC) here recently to propagate the bamboo breed that will 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.

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 Consolidated Minings Inc. that could 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 P3 million to MSC two months ago, while the state college contributed P500,000 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.

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