PROLONGED hot weather brought by El Niño will have debilitating effects on the livelihood and health of fishermen and residents of communities around Laguna de Bay, the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) warned.

Engineer Jun Paul Mistica, manager of the agency's Resource Management and Development department, said that a long hot season could lead to fish kill and respiratory diseases. The water quality in the lake, a source of drinking water, could also deteriorate.

These problems could be caused by algae bloom or overgrowth of so-called "blue-green algae." Mistica said algae are natural food for the fishes, and combined with environmental conditions such as sufficient sunlight and high water temperature algae can grow at a very fast rate.

Problems occur when the algae starts to decompose, which uses much of the oxygen in the water, resulting in fish kills.

"Actually, fish don't die when they eat the algae but when they ingest too much, they taste like mud. It's a natural food for them," he said.

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Decomposing algae emits a stench that could pose health risks like lung problems.

The decomposing algae, Mistica said, also make it harder for water treatment facilities to absorb water.

"Algae affects the water filtration system. The water being absorbed would not be that much in areas that used the water. They have to resort to back washing before it could be distributed to household consumers," he said.

The water level in the lake is normal but the agency continues to monitor the lake, watching out for indicators of algae bloom.

The LLDA plans to procure more than 100 paddle wheel aerators to agitate the water to introduce dissolved oxygen.

The agency may have to procure 100 more paddle wheels if the volume of wilting blue-green algae spikes due to El Niño, he said.

The LLDA, Mistica said, is also pushing a project with the government of Hungary on the deployment of automatic sensors that would be able to determine and monitor beforehand the overgrowth of algae.

It advised operators of aquaculture structures in the lake area not to overstock their fish cages and fishponds and to keep a close watch on their fish stocks whenever there is an algal bloom.

It said unusual behavior of fish at the lake surface could be an indication of the shortage of oxygen in the water.

"Once this is observed, operators must immediately undertake aeration of the water either by running a motorized boat in the affected area or by using paddle wheels or gas-powered aerators," it added.

The LLDA has sought the help of local government units around the lake to intensify the implementation of their environmental programs, projects, activities and other interventions to keep the lake safe.

Meanwhile, Malacañang gave assurances that the government is exerting all efforts to "significantly reduce the risk and negative impacts of the El Niño phenomenon." The Presidential Communications Office cited the creation of an El Niño team led by the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

The move was in accordance with the order of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for a whole-of-government approach to address the dry spell through the mechanisms of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

The body will oversee the implementation of measures to mitigate the impact of El Niño on the economy, natural resources, environment, disaster response, and peace and order.

Moreover, local government units and officials were mandated to work closely with other offices and gather the necessary data to be consolidated by the National Economic and Development Authority while the private sector was encouraged to help in the government's initiatives. WITH KRISTINA MARALIT