Today’s post tells the story of Inle Lake’s tomatoes, complete with pictures for the kiddies.
The story starts at the bottom of the lake, where detritus from water hyacinths and other aquatic plants peacefully rests.
A few hours later…
This nutrient-rich humus is then transported to areas of the lake where the Intha people have constructed extensive floating gardens.
This type of agriculture has many benefits: it directly utilizes the lake’s water and its nutrients; it increases agricultural productivity in an area with very limited areas of solid ground; and it renders the crops flood-proof because the gardens float up and down with the water level.
Several months later…
Unfortunately, this story doesn’t end happily ever after. There’s more…
Several years ago, the locals stopped using water from the lake because they realized that pesticides sprayed on their floating gardens had rendered the lake toxic. Now, even though they are surrounded by water, villagers must use water from ground sources. The pipe in the picture above transports water from the well of a monastery several kilometers away.
As beautiful as it is, even Inle Lake is a mere mirage. Pesticides increase agricultural production, but at what cost? What effects will pesticides have on fish and other organisms in Inle Lake’s unique ecosystem? The villagers may no longer drink the lake water, but they still bathe and swim in it, and a large number of them rely on fishing for their food and livelihoods.
What effects will ingesting the poison-soaked tomatoes have on consumers? These long-term costs should be considered before such toxic substances are used on a large scale, and since these analyses are not even done properly in wealthy nations, I doubt that they’ve been done here.
I pondered the story of Inle Lake’s tomatoes as I lounged in a peaceful restaurant built over the water and munched a tomato salad smothered in a delectable medley of local spices and imported pesticides.