Removal of the non-native water hyacinth plant from Lake Chapala has been tried unsuccessfully in the past but the Jalisco state government has not given up.
A year-long, 4-million-peso project is now getting under way to remove the invasive species, currently estimated to cover about 3% of the lake’s 114,000-hectare surface.
The project, called Chapala Limpio or Clean Chapala, employs a TigerCat aquatic weed harvester to collect the plants, which are then fed manually on to a 12-meter-long conveyor belt. A tractor loads them in to a container before they are removed for composting.
The objective is to remove all the water hyacinth from the lake within one year, although it is not known how many tonnes of plant material that might be. The conveyor belt will be set up wherever the wind blows the plants, said the state of Jalisco Environment Secretary, Magdalena Ruiz Mejía.
Researcher and writer Tony Burton wrote on Mexconnect several years ago that the plant’s violet and yellow flowers add an attractive splash of color to the local landscape but represent a problem for the local economy.
It is thought to have been introduced at the end of the 19th century to adorn fish ponds on haciendas in the area.
But their presence can cause flooding by blocking canals, ditches and pipes, reduce water movement and the penetration of sunlight and decrease the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water, endangering phytoplankton and fish stocks, wrote Burton.
Its one benefit: the plant filters heavy metals from the lake water and stores them in its roots and leaves.
Source: Crónica Jalisco (sp)