MANILA Water announced last week that it has begun its massive cleanup of the San Juan River under an agreement with the national government and the three local government units of San Juan, Mandaluyong, and Quezon City.
We welcome any effort to clean up the many rivers and streams flowing from all parts of Metro Manila, many of them into the Pasig River and finally into Manila Bay. The San Juan River and its tributaries are said to be one of the most polluted rivers in the East Zone of Metro Manila.
Manila Water President and CEO Jose Rene Almendras said that as part of the total effort, the company will activate a flow improvement project at Ermitanyo Creek to ensure that water will flow all year round during the dry season. The Ermitanyo is one of four creeks draining into the San Juan River, the others being Maytunas, Buhangin, and Buayang Bato.
The company also plans a river waste treatment project to cut down the bacteria content of the river, regular desludging, and periodic water quality monitoring. These engineering approaches will have to be combined with social approaches, to ensure community participation in the program.
Any project to clean up any part of the Metro Manila river system is welcome, but the problems are tremendous. Pollution of the entire Metro Manila river system has been going on for decades. All these many years, people from the provinces have been trooping into Manila in search of a better life, settling along the hundreds of streams many of which flow into the Pasig River.
Households and factories poured their wastes, including their sewage, into the streams. Fish began to disappear in the 1930s, Swimming was banned in the 1980s. The Pasig River was declared biologically dead in the 1990s.
In 2009, the Supreme Court stepped into the problem, directing the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and 12 other government agencies to clean up Manila Bay. By this time, the problem may have grown beyond any cleanup and rehabilitation project.
The Manila Water project to clean up the San Juan River focuses on one small part of Metro Manila. There are 20 esteros and creeks in North Metro Manila and 22 in South Metro Manila. Some of them dump water into Laguna de Bay in the east, but most flow west into Manila Bay.
Over the years, many of the streams and creeks and esteros were cleaned up of unsightly floating garbage from kitchens, but the pollution from untreated sewage – the kind that flows from millions of toilets – has remained.
We welcome the Manila Water project for the San Juan River in the East Zone of Metro Manila. Every effort helps, so big is the overall problem. But we hope other private enterprises with an interest in clean water, clean air, clean surroundings, will seek to tie up with the DENR to clean up the many other areas of Metro Manila that are now so helplessly polluted.