• Robin Fontaine

MUM WHY ARE THE FISHES DEAD?

Updated: May 18, 2020

“For Christmas vacations, I will be heading off to the Philippines!” Have you ever heard or said that at least once in your life? If you have, there are countless reasons! A rich and dense marine biodiversity, white and golden sand beaches, green and luxurious green life worthy of Alain Provost’s best creations. These features gave the country, and the region of south-east Asia, an excellent reputation and massive waves of tourists inevitably followed. In 2016 alone close to 40 million passengers landed at Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Manila for a total population of less than 90 million. Consequently, an immense tourism based industry erupted in the country. Multiplication of taxis, hotel resorts, beaches, bars, restaurants and basically everything you can spend your money on while travelling created an exponential expansion of pollution in the area.


From the 26th of April 2018, the Boracay beach, known for being the most beautiful beach in the Philippines if not the world, will be emptied and closed to tourists. This decision by Philippine’s government responds to the conclusion of local businesses and inhabitants to throw away their black and grey water directly into the sea without prior treatment.


Such behaviour on a small scale is most probably harmless, although the Boracay beach alone receives 2 million tourists a year which all have needs. If we consider an average visit to the Boracay beach to be two days long and if we consider the usual local food to be healthy, tourism alone emits around 8 000 tons of poop a year in the natural habitat of the fishes the same tourists will eat at the restaurant. Although, even if this custom can be regarded as unethical, its most significant repercussion is on marine wildlife. The massive pollution release in the ocean can deprive the sea of its oxygen. This phenomenon is most commonly observed in tropical areas where the temperature of the water is high on average (More on that subject here). Scientists have identified these phenomenon’s as dead zones due to their highly lethal nature. Standard practices for the treatment of black water (sewage water) is via RO or Reverse Osmosis. This method is commonly used to separate dissolved or semi-dissolved solids from water. RO’s operating system is rather simple; the wastewater is forced through a semi-permeable membrane; the water is slowly but surely passing through while the solid is not. Although, while this method is effective, it is hard to apply to a large scale. Another less common method uses mechanical vapour compression or MVC. This method has several advantages over the previous one. Firstly, the amount of outcome that stands untreated is meagre. Meaning that most of the water will be treated and reusable in most cases. Secondly, the low labour costs and low maintenance of this solution provides an efficient and cheap way to clean water. The MVC solution also allows for an extensive range of wastewater to be treated compared to traditional RO solution.


Taking actions on the Bocaray beach would greatly benefit both local businesses and biodiversity. Preventing the creation of Dead Zones by using RO will avoid the destruction of all life in the zone adjacent to the beach and will offer a great asset for the beach-based businesses. Would you really want to go to the most beautiful beach in the world once the faeces are sent back to shore?

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