SOS from Vietnam's largest lake

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Vietnamese scientists on Tuesday called for strict measures to save the largest natural lake in Vietnam the Ba Be Lake from exploitation activities.

The 500-hectare lake is a biodiversity reservoir and a part of the Ba Be National Park. Surrounded by majestic scenery, the park is the premier tourist attraction in the mountainous border province of Bac Kan.

At a conference on Tuesday, scientists said that people had destroyed the floristic composition in the mountains surrounding the lake over the last four decades.

Illegal logging, slash and burn agriculture and metal ore mining have brought serious sedimentation to the lake.

Recently, hundreds of residents in Dong Lac and Quang Bach Communes, who are living around the lake area, sent petitions to local authorities asking for the suspension of metal ore mining. The residents say the mines will take over the lake in the near future.

A group of intellectuals named "Ba Be lovers" earlier this month sent a team of scientists and journalists to field trips to the ore and stone mines in the Dong Lac and Quang Bach Communes.

"We found that waste from ore mines had been directly pumped into the lake," Professor Dang Hung Vo announced at the conference.

Ore mining may completely change the ecological environment of the Ba Be National Park and badly affect the quality of the lake's water, according to Prof. Vo.

UNIQUE KARST LAKE 

Ba Be Lake is situated in Cho Ra-Ba Be-Cho Don carste terrain pertaining to low-lying lands of Vietnam North raising mass. This raising mass was formed from the destruction of South East Asia continental mass at the end of Cambri era, around 200 million years ago.

Due to its special geological constitution, the lake has very original and special features compared with other world-wide karst lakes: world karst lakes are spent or only with one-season water, while Ba Be Lake has its permanent full-water. (UNESCO)

Nong The Dien, director of the Ba Be National Park, accused local authorities of licensed ore mining in the buffer zone of the park without bothering to inform park management board.

"The risks from ore mines are higher whenever it rains. When heavy rains occur, rocks and soil are washed away and flow into the lake," said Dien.

Several companies even exploded mines for quartz stone exploitation in the restricted area of the park, he added.

"I heard two more companies have been recently licensed to do mining that way."

Scientists said that if the current trend continues, the lake may face the same destiny like three lakes in the province: Pe Vai, Pe Nan and Pe Tau, which were as approximately big as Ba Be Lake, but have been completely filled up thanks to human hands.

"I am really saddened by the fact that the lake may disappear in the next few decades due to illegal logging and mining," said Professor Chu Hao, former deputy minister of science, technology and environment.

In 1995, at a global lake convention in the U.S., the Ba Be Lake was named one of 20 freshwater lakes in the world that needed to be protected.

Last December, Vietnamese authorities submitted files to UNESCO to seek "world natural heritage" status for the lake.

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