Monday, December 17, 2012

Cleaning up the Rivers of Cebu can be Done - by Cecilia Brainard


Cleaning up the rivers of Cebu can be done

 Published in
 (The Freeman) |

CEBU, Philippines - Whenever I travel, I pay close attention to the condition of the rivers and lakes of the places I visit. This obsession stems from the fact that the rivers in Cebu have become polluted and silted as to become lifeless. It is not just the cosmetic aspect of dirty creeks and foul smell that concerns me. It is the realization that unhealthy rivers and creeks destroy our environment. Rivers and creeks are like arteries of life and when these arteries are destroyed, life in general is threatened. I put it this way: the garbage you dump in rivers, end up in the sea, and the fish eat the garbage, and we in turn eat the fish, so indirectly what you throw in the river ends up in our bodies.

Sometimes I feel hopeless when I look at the shanties built by informal settlers on the waterways and the human waste dumped straight into the creeks. What happens in this situation is that the creeks fill up and water ceases to flow; but when rainy season comes, flooding becomes more severe since the water can no longer flow freely to the sea. The flooding endangers the informal settlers themselves.

Once, during Sinulog, I was appalled when a foreigner stopped dead in his tracks as he stared at a creek in historic Cebu that was covered with trash, the tourist looked totally aghast at the filth. This made me feel ashamed and I realized that this dirty condition is unacceptable in many parts of the world, and that it should not be allowed to our own people.

I felt some hope build up inside me when I saw the Pasig River which flows through the heart of Manila. It's much better now than it was when I was a young girl. The Pasig then was a sea of floating debris. But now it has been rehabilitated. It didn't happen overnight and more work needs to be done, but fish and life thrive in the Pasig once again. The rehabilitation efforts began in 1991 with the assistance of the Danish Aid Agency and the Asian Development Bank; the goal was to improve environmental management particularly waste-water management and urban renewal. A major effort involved relocating the illegal settlers along the Pasig River.

I was glad to see that in early 2012, Mayor Mike Rama had the creeks of Cebu City dredged. This is a start, but the cleanup efforts have to go further than that. I feel there must be a stronger WILL from the people and local government to clean up our rivers and creeks.

I was in Palawan earlier this year and was thoroughly impressed by their strict No Littering Ordinance. Even before landing, visitors to Palawan are warned that the police will give you a ticket if you litter. Wonderfully, people have obliged and have kept Palawan scrupulously clean. In fact, I could see that the local people were constantly sweeping their surroundings, proud of how clean their place is. I mention this, because a strict No Littering Ordinance in Cebu will go far in terms of keeping streets, creeks, and rivers clean. What I'm getting at is that residents of Cebu need to develop a pride of their place and a genuine desire to keep the environment clean and healthy. Hopefully, along with this, they will also understand that the health of their environment is vital to their own personal well-being.

I know that if the people and the government have the WILL, they can, as what happened in Manila and other parts of the world, rehabilitate Cebu's rivers and creeks. In the meantime, to give all food for thought, I'm sharing pictures of rivers in other parts of the world, to show the people and government of Cebu that rivers are vital to life and should be kept clean, healthy, and beautiful. In the pictures, note that the rivers are devoid of garbage, that illegal settlers do not occupy the riverbanks, that in fact the rivers are alive and beautiful, and greatly enhance the environment of these cities.

I realize that some people share my thoughts and are working to clean up and beautify Cebu. After all, millions of tourists visit Cebu especially during the Sinulog, bringing in a lot of tourist income. It is only right to improve the place, which encourages tourism and more importantly improve the quality of life for all.
It can be done. Cebu can cleanup its rivers and creeks.  We just need to make up our minds and work together.
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Cecilia Manguerra Brainard was born and raised in Cebu. She is the award-winning author and editor nineteen books. Her website is (FREEMAN) 

tags:  Cebu, Philippines, water, environment, rivers, creeks, sanitation

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