Clean air, water, lands

>> Sunday, January 22, 2017

Ike Señeres

Perhaps it could just be a matter of semantics, but we do not have yet a “Clean Lands Act” in the same way that we have a “Clean Air Act” and a “Clean Water Act”. Some might argue that we have in effect a “Clean Lands Act” if we combine the “Solid Waste Management Act” and the “Philippine Mining Act”, but I would still say that we need a specific “Clean Lands Act” in order to complete the ideal trio of clean air, clean water and clean lands.
Actually, there is a cyclical interconnection between these three elements, and the common denominator is pollution. For example, dirty air can pollute the lands, and dirty lands can pollute the water. Completing the cycle, polluted water emits foul smells and dangerous chemicals that would in turn pollute the air.
 Somehow, someway, trees are the common denominators on the positive side of this equation. That is so because clean lands would produce healthy trees that would produce the moisture that creates clouds that would eventually fall as rain, thus giving us a fresh supply of clean water. Rains would also clean the air in the process.
Somewhere in between, rains would also nourish the trees that not only produce the moisture, but would also keep the water in its roots, not only to prevent erosion that could lead to floods, but also to supply water to our watersheds. Assuming that the water in our lands and aquifers are clean, it would also supply water to our watersheds and waterways.
In theory, it could be said that if only we could manage our solid wastes properly, our lands would be kept clean. Looking at it from another perspective however, solid waste management is simply just a means to an end, because the ultimate end or goal should really be clean lands.
As a matter of fact, it could even be said that solid waste management is really just one means to an end, because there are actually many other means towards the end or goal of bringing about clean lands. For example, post consumer waste could be greatly reduced if new laws are passed that would increase the percentage of recyclables in consumer packaging, thus reducing post consumer waste.
Again, it could just be a matter of semantics, but the mindsets of those who made our environmental laws might have been out of focus, because not all consumer packaging materials should be considered as waste, if and when these are made of recyclable materials.
In other words, the right way of looking at it is to treat recyclables not as waste, but as valuable raw materials that could be re-used and not thrown away. Since most of the so called post consumer wastes are packaging materials, it would be a good idea to pass more consumer laws that would reduce consumer wastes, on top of, and aside from the environmental laws.
Again looking at it from another perspective, the so-called garbage problem should really not be seen as a problem, because it is actually a business opportunity that could even be seen as an urban mining industry.
As a matter of fact, there are many cities now in some other parts of the world wherein the so-called garbage collectors would actually buy either the unsorted garbage or the pre-sorted recyclables, as the case may be. In such a case, the unsorted garbage would go through an automated sorting system that would separate the recyclables from the real waste. Of course, the pre-sorted recyclables would already have ready buyers.
One of the great ironies in our country today is the fact that the Philippine National Police (PNP) does not seem so keen in implementing the environmental laws on one hand, and yet the Environment Management Bureau (EMB) does not seem to have enough police powers to be able to implement those laws.
That would also seem to be the case when it comes to the Forest Management Bureau (FMB), an agency that neither has the people nor the weapons to enforce the forestry laws. In reality, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is already a civilian agency, and therefore it should already the police powers to fully enforce environmental laws in all of our coastal areas.
Over the years, I have interviewed many foreign scientists and experts who have all told me that we could not clean our lands not unless we clean our forests, that we could not clean our rivers not unless we clean our lands, and we could not clean our seas not unless we clean our rivers.
Of course they were all right in saying those words, but to what they said, I will add my own words, that we could not have clean air not unless we have clean lands, and we could not have clean water too, not unless we have clean lands. The bottom line of course is sustainability. As stated in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we need to have clean water and sanitation, we should sustain life below water, and we should sustain life on land.
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