Balili River, a heritage to revitalize

>> Monday, June 13, 2016

Susan C. Aro

BAGUIO CITY--The Balili River is a heritage, the strongest motivation for the community and other stakeholders to work together in improving its deteriorating state setting aside indifferences in revitalizing its prominence.
University of the Philippines Baguio Professor Arellano Colongon, Jr. stressed this during  recent community planning workshop for the Balili River which he facilitated.
It was attended by officials and residents of 65 barangays situated along the Sagudin River, Balili’s headwaters located in the city.
Tagged “biologically dead,”  people want the river restored and rehabilitated maybe  not exactly back to  its  old days of glory but “will remind us of what Baguio used to be because it reminds us of the culture, the way of life of the people,” he  said.
The present  status of the river include  presence of pollutants due to garbage from households and business establishments alike, clogged canals especially during the rainy season, overflowing septic tanks while some others are leaking and draining to the creeks and canals, piggery waste flowing directly to the creeks and canals, presence of trash along creeks with foul odor, open drainage and canals, murky, brackish and stagnant water, pet cemetery, has become a giant septic tank, has narrowed due to encroachments.
Colongon urged participants to continue what they are doing to help save the river and do more no matter how simple it may be and be part of a common effort. “When we give up what would happen to our river?” Colongon asked.
Since 2012, common achievements at the barangay level included clean up drive every month, information campaign during general assembly, among households and boarding houses on waste segregation and collection, conduct of seminars about waste segregation and management together with other concerned agencies, implementation of city ordinances such as illegal connection of sewer lines, house to house inspection of sewer lines, septic tank and liquid waste, construction of sewer lines and septic tanks, monitoring of possible clogging of canals and soil erosion during rainy season.
Other achievements presented peculiar to some communities were the cleanest and greenest barangay contest, adoption of portable biogas digester, construction of eco-composting receptacles, cleaning of road and pathways including hiring of truckload of water, watering of plants near the road during the dry season, vermiculture, posting of signages along creeks and distribution of information materials, planting ornamental and fruit bearing trees along the river banks,waterways and canals, construction of compost pits.  
These are apart from those conducted by the city government spearheaded by the City Environment and Parks Management Office  with partner institutions such as clean up drives, creation of water governance with the implementation of relevant activities, issuance of violations, identification of households not connected to sewer lines, encroachments along river banks among others.    
Colongon urged the participants to continue what they are doing to help save the river and do more no matter how simple it may be and be part of a common effort. “When we give up what would happen to our river?,” Colongon asked.
Officials and barangay constituents shared factors that hinder carrying out their plans. Among these are attitude problems such as lack of discipline especially among residents and students who are not permanent residents in the area, lack of cooperation in bringing out garbage from the point of origin to the designated collection point, lack of cooperation among some business establishments, lack of cooperation among some officials, resistance to payment of garbage fee, and uncontrolled encroachments which should be looked into by the city government together with the involvement of the barangay officials, low awareness of policies, lack of monitoring strategies, limited funds, non-implementation of apprehension and lack of political will.
Colongon urged participants to be more aggressive, innovative in making the river clean, and replicate good practices that fit their community harmonizing efforts with the active involvement of stakeholders.
However, he cautioned the participants to delineate what role and responsibility each of the stakeholders should play. Is it the role of the residents, landlord or tenants, business sector, barangay officials or the city local government?  
In the workshops, the participants were asked to craft doable strategies and set priorities in addressing the gaps for a one year period including the identification of point persons and tasking of assignments on who should do what. These would then be assessed after a year if they were able to accomplish what they have planned for the period.   
Identified tasks and strategies  include regular conduct of clean-up drives and decloging along waterways, creeks, dialogue with concerned business establishments on proper waste disposal, house to house consultation on proper waste disposal and other related policies, dialogue/compromise on open pit waste disposal of piggery, household survey, remind offenders to comply with city ordinances, crafting of barangay resolutions in strengthening city policies, funding-sponsorships, planting ornamental and fruit bearing trees along the river banks/waterways/canals, hold cleanest and greenest Barangay Contest, putting up of signages or tarpaulins and posting/distribution of information materials, sustain “SalaknibtiWaig” Campaign, information dissemination on City/Barangay Ordinance, tree planting, attendance to seminar and training activities regarding environment, health, sanitation, and engage cooperation and participation among various stakeholders, and recognition of active participants of the environmental programs/waste management.
CEPMO-Waste Water and Ambient Management Division Chief Engr Moises Lozano also presented the yearly decreasing trend on the volume of trash collected since 2012 to date. He attributed this development to the information campaign and efforts and activities carried out with partner institutions.

He said there is hope in improving the water quality of the Balili River system encouraging barangays to continue and strengthen their efforts in cleaning the river system. 


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