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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        3  May 2011

Iron ore exploitation destroys lake

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Ba Be Lake in the national park of the same name, is slowly being filled up with rock and earth from the exploitation of iron ore.

The lake, considered to be an important part of the cultural heritage of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), is in the northern province of Bac Kan.

It is listed as one of 20 significant lakes in the world that need protection, according to the International Conference on Lakes held in the United States in 1995.

Professor Chu Hao, former Deputy Minister of Science, Technology and Environment, said if no measures were taken to prevent the destruction of the lake, it would be lost in a few decades. Poet Duong Thuan, whose home is in Bac Kan Province, said Ba Be Lake initially included six lakes connected to each other.

However, in the past 40 years, three of them have been filled up. These were Pe Tau Lake in Cao Thuong Commune, Pe Vai and Pe Nan lakes in Khang Ninh Commune.

Thuan said the Pe Leng, one of the three remaining lakes, was also being filled up and two-thirds of its area had been swallowed.

Apart from the exploitation of iron ore, residents living along the lake valleys cut down trees and forests to create fields.

This enables flash flooding to sweep soil, rock, leaves and rubbish into the lakes in the National Park.

Recently, 32 residents in Dong Lac Commune, Cho Don District, sent a letter to local authorities saying that the iron-ore exploitation in Khuoi Giang rivulet seriously affected their source of pure water and residents' cultivation areas.

Their protest comes as it is learned that two more iron-ore mining areas will be opened. Documents about the lakes filling up and parameters about their pollution are being completed by the Ba Be Lake Lovers' Association.

"When the documents are completed, we will ask the Prime Minister to take proper measures," said poet Thuan, a member of the Ba Be Lake Lovers' Association.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Bac Kan People's Committee, Hoang Ngoc Duong, said that the committee, in co-ordination with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Ministry of Forestry, was planting forests to try and prevent erosion polluting the lakes. "We will also create ‘stairs' on Nam Cuong River to collect mud which can be used to prevent erosion along the river banks," he said.

The committee also called for proper punishment of enterprises polluting the environment.

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