Garbage removal underway; ending   pollution  will take time

Published March 12, 2019, 12:12 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

e-cartoon-mar-12-2019The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) have  started  deploying  amphibious excavators along the 1.5-kilometer shoreline  along  Roxas Blvd. between the Manila Yacht Club and  the United States Embassy.

At least 20 trucks  will  be used to  transport the trash that the excavators are expected to raise from the waters close  to the shore. There have been occasional cleanup drives conducted by civic groups  that collected trash on the shores of the bay. This time, with the excavators, the DPWH and the DENR intend to reach farther out into the bay  and  remove  the  garbage  dumped  over so many decades..

The  silt and  garbage  raised from   the waters of the bay will go through a waste segregation machine and  the trash will be taken to a Navotas landfill  while the mire and soil will be dumped in  Bicutan, Taguig  City.  This  dredging operation may take three months. The goal is to remove all the garbage that now covers the sand at the bottom of the bay.

It must be stressed, however, that this  excavation operation is only  part of the rehabilitation  plan for Manila Bay. The bigger part will be the elimination of the pollution  that  now  flows  into it with the waste water coming from  the thousands of  homes and establishments in Metro Manila. Because of all these untreated wastes, the fecal coliform  bacterial level in many parts of the bay is said to have reached 350 MPN (Most Probable Number) per 100 milliliters,  when the acceptable  level is only 100 MPN.

At the start of the cleanup, the  Manila Zoo, along with several hotels and restaurants, were  closed down for directly dumping their wastewater into sewers flowing into the bay. Metro Manila’s two water concessionaires, which have been collecting funds from households to set up wastewater treatment plants,  expect close to 100 percent coverage of their areas by about 2037.

And this is only Metro Manila with its Pasig River collecting waste water from heavily populated towns along the way  as well as from Laguna de Bay with its own  set of towns  and  five river systems that flow into it from Southern Luzon – the Boso-boso river in Rizal, the Zapote river in Cavite, the San Cristobal river  in Laguna, the San Juan river in Batangas, and the Iyam-Dumacaa  river in Quezon  The DENR said  hundreds of hog farms have long been disposing of their animal  wastes into these rivers.

There are  other river systems carrying their own pollution directly into Manila Bay from Bataan in the west, Pampanga and Bulacan in the north, and Cavite  in the south.

All this pollution has made Manila Bay what it is today, a body of water unsafe for swimming or  any other form of “contact recreation.”

The excavators deployed by the DPWH and DENR will remove  the  more  visible garbage that  now  covers the l sand along  Roxas Boulevard. The real  pollution  is less visible – the bacteria  thriving in the wastewater from Metro Manila and Laguna  de Bay,  that can cause disease upon contact.

We must  not  expect  any quick solution to this long-neglected problem of Manila Bay. We can only be thankful  that finally, the government is acting  on it.