Feb 1, 2019

We’d jokingly say, “same,” if it wasn’t so concerning.

Late last year, the Environment Management Bureau in Central Visayas (EMB-7) took water samples from two rivers in Cebu City: the northern Lahug River and the southern Bulacao River. These rivers are infamous for being frequently used as garbage dumps; in this sad race to pollution that nobody wants, think of these as Cebu’s answer to Pasig River. On Jan. 29, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Central Visayas (DENR-7) presented the EMB-7’s grim results: the rivers are now considered dead.

What this means is that the rivers are so heavily contaminated that flora and fauna can’t live in the river anymore. Rivers are normally a hotbed of biodiversity, the waters teeming with unique and often undiscovered lifeforms. That’s why a lot of our endemic fishes are found in these bodies of water. (Read: Find your next great catch from the market in this fish list) And that’s the saddest thing about the news: more than just these rivers looking unsightly or being unhygienic, think about all the life forms that will now just die. Or have died. And you won’t see them ever again.

In 2013, the University of San Carlos’s Chemistry Department did a study of some of Cebu’s other rivers, and found that the oxygen levels (which are needed for our aquatic friends to survive) were dangerously low. The scary thing about this is that it means that the Lahug and Bulacao rivers might not be the only dead ones around (the EMB-7 also took samples from the Guadalupe River, but have not made the results available yet). And all of these are caused by heavy pollution.

If you’re not concerned about this, then pay heed to a warning made by Marc Canton of the Movement for a Livable Cebu in the same 2013 article: “Nature will always insist on its way or we pay the price.” A river so heavily polluted that lifeforms can’t survive in it will also have a reduced water carrying capacity. And when that happens, more floods will arise.

Thankfully, it’s possible to turn things around. We were able to clean up the Estero de Binondo and we can do the same for these two rivers, too. (Read: Waste-free Binondo creek restores hope in healthy PH waters) To their credit, the DENR-7 are pushing for the rehabilitation of the rivers, and environment secretary Roy Cimatu also urged LGUs to take charge in the cleanup of the rivers. And while the initial cleanup is only part of the battle (the real challenge is ensuring that the cleanliness will be maintained), it’s still a step in the right direction.

Of the surviving fragments left by Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, the most famous one is the fragment about rivers. “In the same river we both step and do not step, we are and are not,” it says, alluding to the constant changing nature of life. The river’s water is constantly flowing, and so you’ll never be able to step into the same water. And we change, too. So to everyone living in this world of endless flux, can we make just one suggestion? Let’s change for the better and protect our waters, please.


Featured photo is of the Butuanon River, another river in Cebu considered biologically dead, courtesy of Inquirer.net

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TAGS: bulacao river cebu city Department of Environment and Natural Resources Central Visayas Environment Management Bureau in Central Visayas lahug river nolisoli.ph