As more Filipinos travel these days, the more they also need to be educated in taking care of the environment. Many a times, they leave piles of garbage on their trail, be it on mountains or rivers? One example of this disturbing practice is seen in a local bukal or spring in Laguna.
A clean up clearly needed, Haribon Foundation’s tapped its rainforest restoration program partner, the San Cristobal Farmers Association (SCFA, a group that nurtures and maintains native tree seedlings that will be planted in Mt. Banahaw-San Cristobal Protected Landscape. The foundation and the people’s organization recently conducted a “Clean-up Bukal” wherein 27 local residents of Brgy. San Cristobal joined the activity.
Locals call it the bukal, a stream that supports more than a hundred households and a daily source of flowing water for the two known resorts along the river path in San Pablo City. It not only serves as the source of clean water, but also a place where they can wash their clothes, bathe, and hold family gatherings. Sadly, visitors of this stream eventually made it their default trash can, where they just leave their garbage after being done with their activities.
Data from the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Philippines showed that out of the 127 freshwater bodies that they sampled, 40 percent of those sampled were found to have only fair water quality, while 13% showed poor water quality. “Biologically dead” water streams no longer contain any oxygen and cannot support marine life and can have toxic effects in human health if ingested. And based on a report from World Bank on “Philippines: Environment Monitor 2003” the annual economic losses caused by water pollution and environmental damage are huge where the figure is estimated at P67-billion (US$1.3 billion). These include P3-billion for health, P17-billion for fisheries production, and P47-billion for tourism.
Despite the current situation of our country’s freshwater, its deterioration can in fact be prevented and reversed by human intervention. An example of this was SCFA’s annual implementation of clean-up activity in and around the spring. The group also did casual education drive to nearby communities to help them understand the importance of their water source and why they need to keep this clean.
The group collected 17 sacks of waste materials within two and a half hours. It included a lot of household waste such as used diapers, sanitary napkins, plastic bags, empty bottles, junk food wrappers, and even some recyclable waste such as tin cans and plastic bottles.
It was a good opportunity for the SCFA participants to raise their concern about the environmental problem surrounding them.
One of the participants said, “We are doing this clean-up activity yearly. Yet the surrounding community of this spring still doesn’t even care. The spring is our free source of clean and potable water and its main stream as our free nature commodity for recreation and relaxing activity during hot summer.”
One member shared, “I hope our activity will remind everyone how one small thoughtless act like throwing garbage along rivers can result to a bigger problem.” While another commented, “Although we cleaned this water source area, this is only temporary. We need to think about an action plan on how we can educate and instill in the minds of our community members the value of the water bodies not only for today, but for the future”.
World Bank. (2003). Philippines: Environment Monitor 2003. Washington, DC.
Arman Suarez is Haribon’s Forester and Community Organizer for the forest restoration activities under the Rainforestation Organizations and Advocates (ROAD) to 2020 campaign.