Agriculture - - New Tech­nol­ogy - BY ZAC B. SAR­IAN

DR. MAC­RINA ZA­FAR­ALLA is a one-woman army go­ing around the coun­try to pro­mote her ad­vo­cacy of re­viv­ing de­graded shal­low streams and rivers by a very sim­ple and doable tech­nique that rids the wa­ter of pol­lu­tion so that fish will thrive and mul­ti­ply. In the sci­en­tist’s words, the tech­nique is called Aquatic Macro­phyte Biosorp­tion Sys­tem (AMBS). In lay­man’s terms, the tech­nique sim­ply uses wa­ter plants (wa­ter hy­acinth or kangkong) that are held in place by a bar­rier made of short bam­boo poles. The plants’ roots form a mat that fil­ters out float­ing solids while ab­sorb­ing and ad­sorb­ing sub­stances that are dis­solved in wa­ter. With the clean wa­ter, var­i­ous fish species make the place their home. This way, the re­ha­bil­i­tated wa­ter sys­tem be­comes a fish habi­tat that be­comes a con­tin­u­ing source of food for the peo­ple.

By the way, Dr. Za­far­alla is an en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­en­tist who is pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus at the In­sti­tute of Bi­o­log­i­cal Sci­ence in UP Los Baños. She con­ceived of the AMBS tech­nique about seven years ago, and it has been proven to work won­ders, start­ing from the Mo­lawin Creek within the UPLB cam­pus, down to rivers in Tanay, the Si­lang-Santa Rosa river in La­guna and Cavite, the Pan­gao river Lipa, and else­where.

As early as the sec­ond day af­ter place­ment of the wa­ter hy­acinth, fin­ger­lings or fry ap­pear in the wa­ter, ac­cord­ing to Dr. Za­far­alla. The eggs or fry could have been brought with the plants from the source. For as long as the wa­ter is kept clean (no dump­ing of wastes), the stream will con­tinue to nur­ture fish.

The ideal depth of the wa­ter is knee-deep and it should be flow­ing, al­beit slowly, so that there will be the aer­a­tion needed by the fish. Also im­por­tant is to con­trol the vol­ume of the so­called macro­phytes (wa­ter hy­acinth and kangkong) to pre­vent over­crowded con­di­tions that could de­plete oxy­gen in the wa­ter.

The bam­boo bar­rier is placed across the stream or shal­low river. Each bar­rier can be in­stalled a hun­dred me­ters apart, with each place pro­vided with wa­ter hy­acinth about one or two feet wide. That’s enough to at­tract the fish to lay their eggs and mul­ti­ply there, ac­cord­ing to Dr. Za­far­alla. The marine life com­monly found in the ABMS in­clude tilapia, shrimps, dalag, hito, and even ed­i­ble snails.

What in­spired Dr. Za­far­alla to hatch the idea? It all started, she said, when she saw a lit­tle girl bathing in the pol­luted wa­ter of Mo­lawin Creek. She said the girl was splash­ing the pol­luted wa­ter on her face and per­haps even drink­ing from the stream. She told her­self that the lit­tle girl must be saved from the dan­ger of play­ing and bathing in pol­luted wa­ter.

Dr. Macrina T. Zafaralla, professor emer­i­tus and an en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­en­tist of UP Los Baños.

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