Cleanup of Davao’s polluted rivers urged

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 28 Jan) – The committee on environment of the city council here is asking the City Mayor’s Office to assign an environmental sanitary specialist at the City Health Office to enforce the Septage and Sewerage Ordinance in view of the report that pollution in Davao’s rivers is approaching critical levels.

In an interview Tuesday, committee chair Leonardo Avila III said the designation of personnel has been long overdue, with the IRR already completed at the end of the term of former mayor Sara Z. Duterte in 2013.

The request comes after a January 21, 2015 report from the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) showing that pollution in three rivers in the city are nearing critical levels.

Avila said that since the ordinance has been passed in the previous council, there have been no fines slapped or arrests made on violators because there was no one tasked specifically to focus on monitoring the implementation.

He added that the executive should even name a permanent representative to meetings with the Water Quality Management Board, which would report findings to the LGU.

The EMB report recommended that the city immediately implement the Septage and Sewerage Management Ordinance.

Aside from the implementation of the ordinance, the EMB also asked the city to slowly relocate the informal settlers living near or along river banks.

“The river is their depository of their wastes,” the report said. “For the meantime, communal toilets should be provided for them.”

The report added that the city should monitor the wastewater treatment facilities of industries such as agriculture and livestock activities such as hog and poultry raising.

It said these were potential sources of high organic waste and coliform bacteria.

The same goes for backyard animal farms, especially those without appropriate wastewater treatment facilities.

According to the EMB, the city should also enforce the watershed protection, conservation and management ordinance.

The EMB report showed that fecal coliform and other indicators such as biochemical oxygen demand were higher downstream in all three Davao, Lipadas and Talomo rivers.

Biochemical oxygen demand (or BOD) is the amount of dissolved oxygen needed to break down organic biological waste such as waste from public markets.

Upstream and downstream at the Davao River, the BOD was near critical level.

Both streams of the river also showed high siltation and a huge amount of total suspended solids, which causes erosion during heavy rains.

According to Avila, the city government has to enforce the ordinance it has passed, especially since these were already affecting the city’s rivers.

The rivers, the report said, were still a source of food to some residents and as a recreational swimming area despite the pollution levels.

The penalties set in the ordinances, Avila said, were up to P5,000 and even imprisonment.

The councilor added that the executive department should either name a person in charge of the septage ordinance enforcement or, if need be, hire a sanitary engineer qualified for the task.