By Catherine J. Teves
MANILA, July 17 -– Environmental Management Bureau-National Capital Region (EMB-NCR) is preparing for the planned declaration of San Juan River system, one of the most polluted, as the country’s newest water quality management area (WQMA).
EMB-NCR water sector senior environmental management specialist Wilma Uyaco said the agency is already coordinating with local government units concerned regarding the declaration that's targeted for this year.
”Anti-water pollution interventions can be more focused if an area is declared a WQMA,” she said.
Republic Act 9275 (Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004) requires certain areas’ designation as WQMAs to provide a decentralized management system for water quality protection and improvement there.
Uyaco said San Juan River system must be cleaned up since water quality there is “still poor.”
”We haven’t yet monitored significant improvement in water quality there,” she noted.
The environment secretary’s declaration of a site as WQMA paves the way for establishing a group that’ll monitor water quality there.
”Discharges into waterways within WQMAs must be tested to help address the water pollution problem there,” Uyaco said.
For San Juan River system, she said the goal is to improve water quality there to Class C.
She said Class C waters are sufficient for fishing, contact recreation and other activities.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (WQMAs) earlier reported existing WQMAs in Luzon are Marilao-Meycauayan-Obando river system and areas within Laguna Lake Development Authority’s jurisdiction.
In the Visayas, DENR said the WQMAs are Tigum-Aganan watershed and Iloilo-Batiano river system.
Mindanao’s WQMAs are Silway River and Saranggani Bay, DENR continued.
San Juan River itself is about 3.4 kilometers long, EMB-NCR said.
EMB-NCR noted the river begins in Quezon City then passes through San Juan City, Mandaluyong City and Manila.
The river discharges into Pasig River which flows into Manila Bay, Uyaco noted.
"Waste and other pollutants in San Juan River and its tributaries must be removed or these will eventually flow into Manila Bay," she said.
Manila Bay is the subject of Supreme Court's 2008 water clean-up order for several government agencies.
The high tribunal issued such order so Manila Bay – once a haven for fishing, recreation and other activities – can fully regain its function as an economic driver.
Citing EMB-NCR’s monitoring results, Uyaco reported San Juan River's biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) level of over seven milligrams per liter and zero dissolved oxygen (DO) level don't meet standards for Class C waters.
Such BOD level is more than what's needed for fish to survive, she noted.
"Fish need a DO level of over five milligrams per liter to thrive," she continued.
BOD and DO are water quality indicators.
Last month, retail giant Shoemart joined DENR’s Adopt-an-Estero water clean-up program.
Shoemart signed with DENR the agreement on cleaning up San Juan River’s downstream stretch.
EMB-NCR said such stretch begins at SM Centerpoint mall in Manila’s Sta. Mesa district.
The clean-up will help declog that downstream stretch, Uyaco said.
”Declogging will enable water and trash from the upstream to flow more easily, lessening the possibility for San Juan River's overflow and flooding in nearby communities,” she noted.
Uyaco said EMB-NCR is encouraging local officials concerned to place trash traps or nets along San Juan River to help block flow of garbage thrown into that waterway.
She said such system will make it easier to recover the garbage for proper disposal.
EMB-NCR also continues inviting the private sector to increasingly join Adopt-an-Estero program so San Juan River’s upstream stretch and other waterways as well can be cleaned up, she noted.
Under the program, DENR’s private partners choose which waterways or portions of these to clean up using own resources.
DENR complements such effort by conducting, in communities along the chosen waterways, its information and education solid waste management (SWM) campaign there.
The campaign aims to help curb indiscriminate disposal of waste into water bodies.
SWM measures include re-using and recycling waste to reduce volume of garbage for disposal. (PNA) dct/CJT/utb