e360 digest


Photo Essay: How Pollution Is
Devastating an Indonesian Lake


By Binsar Bakkara
Uncontrolled fish farming, population growth, and logging have all taken a toll on Indonesia’s Lake Toba. Photographer Binsar Bakkara returns to his home region to chronicle the environmental destruction.

26 Oct 2016


Farmers remove thousands of dead fish from floating cages in the Lake Toba town of Haranggaol in May 2016. The fish died overnight from a lack of oxygen in the water.

More than 1,500 tons of fish suddenly turned up dead in Indonesia’s largest lake earlier this year, a mass asphyxiation from a lack of oxygen in the water caused by high pollution levels. The event threatened the livelihoods of hundreds of fish farmers and the drinking water for thousands of people, and it shed light on the rapidly declining conditions in Lake Toba, the largest volcanic lake in the world.

Population growth, development, deforestation, and a booming caged fishing industry have severely degraded the lake’s water quality over the last two decades, scientists say. There are now 12,000 cages in the lake, each containing upwards of 10,000 fish, which is double or triple their capacities. Agricultural fertilizers, sewage, and most prominently, fish food have increased the levels of phosphorous in the lake three-fold since 2012, according to a government report. The lake, located in the northern part of Sumatra, is classified as either eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic, meaning it has excessive nutrients that can create dead zones with low oxygen levels.

Photographer Binsar Bakkara grew up on the shores of Lake Toba. While a kid in the 1980s and 1990s, “the clarity level of the water in the lake was very good,” Bakkara says. “Objects at 5-7 meters in depth could be seen clearly. But nowadays, it's almost impossible to see any objects 2 meters deep because of the murky water.” When he heard news of the fish kill, Bakkara headed back to the lake to document the pollution.

Scroll below to see Bakkara’s images.

__________________________



A worker drags a fish cage in Haranggaol, Lake Toba.

__________________________



The lake’s fishing industry lost more than 1,500 tons of carp and tilapia in the fish kill.

__________________________



The mass fish kill took days to clean up. More than 100 Lake Toba fish farmers lost their entire stock, costing them thousands of dollars.

__________________________



A boy collects water for his family on the shores of Samosir, an island in Lake Toba.

__________________________



Water full of trash and milfoil, an invasive plant that thrives in nutrient-rich waters and can deplete lakes’ oxygen levels, in the town of Tano Ponggol, Lake Toba.

__________________________



A boy catches shrimps in an area overgrown with milfoil near Samosir Island.

__________________________



Increasing nutrients in the lake have led to a proliferation of milfoil, hyacinth, and other aquatic plants.

__________________________



Fishermen in an area overgrown by water hyacinth near the crowded fish cages in Haranggaol.

__________________________



Children play in the water near Samosir Island.

__________________________

Binsar Bakkara

Binsar Bakkara is a photojournalist based in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia. His images have been published in several international news outlets, including Time, The New York Times, and National Geographic. He also works as a photographer for the Associated Press.


Yale
Yale Environment 360 is
a publication of the
Yale School of Forestry
& Environmental Studies
.

SEARCH e360



Donate to Yale Environment 360
Yale Environment 360 Newsletter


CONNECT


ABOUT

About e360
Contact
Submission Guidelines
Reprints

E360 en Español

Universia partnership
Yale Environment 360 articles are now available in Spanish and Portuguese on Universia, the online educational network.
Visit the site.


DEPARTMENTS

Opinion
Reports
Analysis
Interviews
Forums
e360 Digest
Podcasts
Video Reports

TOPICS

Biodiversity
Business & Innovation
Climate
Energy
Forests
Oceans
Policy & Politics
Pollution & Health
Science & Technology
Sustainability
Urbanization
Water

REGIONS

Antarctica and the Arctic
Africa
Asia
Australia
Central & South America
Europe
Middle East
North America

e360 VIDEO

“video
A look at how acidifying oceans could threaten the Dungeness crab, one of the most valuable fisheries on the U.S. West Coast.
Watch the video.

e360 MOBILE

Mobile
The latest
from Yale
Environment 360
is now available for mobile devices at e360.yale.edu/mobile.

e360 PHOTO ESSAY

“Alaska
An aerial view of why Europe’s per capita carbon emissions are less than 50 percent of those in the U.S.
View the photos.

e360 VIDEO

“Ashaninka
An indigenous tribe’s deadly fight to save its ancestral land in the Amazon rainforest from logging.
Learn more.

e360 VIDEO

Food waste
An e360 video series looks at the staggering amount of food wasted in the U.S. – a problem with major human and environmental costs.
Watch the video.

e360 VIDEO

Choco rainforest Cacao
Residents of the Chocó Rainforest in Ecuador are choosing to plant cacao over logging in an effort to slow deforestation.
Watch the video.

e360 VIDEO

“video
Tribal people and ranchers join together to stop a project that would haul coal across their Montana land.
Watch the video.

OF INTEREST



Yale