WE, Filipinos, never really learn that the garbage we throw carelessly into the streets eventually retard the flow of rainwater along creeks and rivers, through pumping stations, and into the Manila Bay or Laguna de Bay.
The consequence is flooding, particularly in Metro Manila, that results in damage to property and sometimes loss of lives.
“Metro Manila, the center of economy and trade in the Philippines and home to about 15 million people, has suffered recurrent flooding resulting in adverse consequences to people’s lives and the economy,” according to the May 2017 executive summary of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment of the Metro Manila Flood Management Project funded by the World Bank.
“The effects of a changing climate, an increased frequency of stronger typhoons and storm rainfall, coupled with sea-level rise, lead to a higher level of flood risk to Metro Manila,” according to the assessment summary.
People on board public transport navigating through the flooded streets of the metropolis are often heard blaming the government for its lack of action over the recurring floods that inundate many parts of the National Capital Region—Metro Manila and nearby provinces—during the rainy season. One avid Facebook user could not believe that some people even blamed God for the flooded streets last week as a result of the enhanced monsoon rains while Typhoon Gorio was barreling its way over the Pacific Ocean.
What is indisputable in all this blame game is that 15 million people inhabit Metro Manila, and 15 million people dump a lot of garbage every day. That is why solid waste management is integral to flood control and management.
In the insightful publication The Garbage Book: Solid Waste Management in Metro Manila, produced by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in 2004 through a technical assistance grant from the Asian Development Bank, researchers estimated that people of Metro Manila generate 6,700 tons of garbage each day, of which about 720 tons are recycled or composted.
“The balance—some 6,000 tons daily—is either hauled to the city’s dump sites, dumped illegally on private land, in rivers, creeks, Manila Bay, or openly burned, adding to the heavily polluted air shed,” the study said.
In the final draft of the National Solid Waste Management Status Report (2008 – 2014) prepared by the DENR with the Environmental Management Bureau and the National Solid Waste Management Commission, it is estimated that this year (2017) alone, Metro Manila is expected to produce 4 million metric tons of garbage—that is about 25 percent of the total solid waste that the whole country is expected to generate this year.
The main purpose of the WB-funded Metro Manila Flood Management Project is to reduce flooding by ensuring that pumping stations are functioning properly even during high tide.
“Considering that the waterways served by the pumping stations are affected by tidal flows or high main river water levels, the pumping stations are particularly important in periods of high tide when Manila Bay and Laguna de Bay water levels or receiving river water levels are higher than the water level of the waterways served by pumping stations,” according to the project assessment summary.
But no matter how efficient the pumping stations are, these infrastructures are not—by design and function—supposed to pump garbage out of waterways and into the Manila Bay and Laguna de Bay which serve as natural catchments for rainwater.
Instead of blaming God and the government for the recurrent flooding, we—the citizens, who are mostly affected every time the streets of Metro Manila get flooded—must do our part to lessen the impact of carelessly thrown garbage on the efficiency of flood control and management, which is costing the state at least $352 million, or P7 billion for the 20 to 25-year master plan alone.
It all boils down to that old adage: Cleanliness is next to godliness.