United Nations cites cleanup of Las Pinas’ river systemPosted on April 5th, 2011 under Technology Milestones
Sagip Ilog [via Philstar]
The cleanup of Las Piñas City’s river system did not just resuscitate the Las Piñas and Zapote Rivers. The wastes collected also provided residents a means of livelihood.
The two-pronged approach of the river rehabilitation program called Sagip Ilog, implemented by the Villar Foundation, was recognized as best water management practice by the United Nations on World Water Day last month.
The UN cited the foundation “for its outstanding contribution toward improving the living environment and its demonstrable and tangible impact on people’s quality of life within a metropolitan river basin.” The citation was received by former Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar and her husband, Sen. Manuel Villar, during the awarding ceremony in Zaragoza, Spain, on March 22.
For Cynthia Villar, the success of the program hinged on two factors—the people’s support and a close collaboration between the private and public sectors.
“It has to be a combination,” Mrs. Villar told the Inquirer in an interview on Friday. “For example, if you don’t have the support of the local government, the agencies under it won’t follow easily. It will be hard to be on your own.”
She mentioned as a case in point the throwaway coconut husks that Las Piñas Mayor Vergel Aguilar, her brother, found so irritating that he urged the city council to pass an ordinance outlawing the husks’ improper disposal in the river system.
The former lawmaker had come across an inventor, Dr. Justino Arboleda, who developed a decorticating machine that processes coconut husks into fiber and peat that, in turn, make for a cheaper, sturdier alternative to concrete rip-rapping and a fertilizer additive, respectively.
When spun and woven properly, coconut fiber becomes coir, which may be placed on slopes along a riverbank to protect it from erosion and siltation, according to Villar.
Bamboo seedlings may also be planted along a riverbank to strengthen it.
On the other hand, peat is mixed with wet garbage before it is ground and processed for five days to turn into organic compost.
At least 70 percent of Las Piñas barangays have machines that produce compost. Food wastes are collected by “bio-men” (from “biodegradable”), who turn over wet garbage to the compost processing centers.
The barangays produce 60 tons of organic compost in a month, which is sold in the provinces for P100 per sack, Villar said.
Dry biodegradable garbage is decomposed using worms called African night crawlers to produce another type of organic fertilizer, she said.
Every two days, Las Piñas’ women weavers produce a 50-meter-long coconut coir mat that retails for about P950, Villar said.
Among the weavers’ clients in Barangay Aldana is the Villar-owned Vista Land, she said.
She recalled with a chuckle an instance when her husband asked one of the company engineers to “justify their non-use of coconut coir in some of their project’s requirements.”
After all, she said, “it is a cost-effective alternative to concrete rip-rapping.”
Villar said the filth that used to swamp the Las Piñas and Zapote Rivers allowed water hyacinths (lilies) to thrive, rendering the waterways impassable to water transport and dredging equipment.
As cleaning operations commenced on the rivers, the weavers harvested the hyacinths and, after sun-drying, made these into bags and other handicraft.
“Sometimes, the weavers have to buy water lilies from Taguig City because the ones that grow along our rivers are now shorter than what they required,” Villar said.
“The lilies here don’t grow longer than a foot anymore, probably because the rivers are cleaner now,” she said.
“But the weavers still make do with our lilies because you can never go wrong with free raw material,” she added, explaining that a sun-dried water lily stalk from Taguig cost 25 centavos.
Villar said the cleanup of the Las Piñas and Zapote Rivers was assisted in no small measure by her nine-year stint in Congress.
She said her being a lawmaker helped get the river rehabilitation program over the hump, so to speak, with improper garbage disposal now the only recurring problem.
Villar envisions the rivers to become tourist attractions like Bohol’s Loboc River. Or they can serve as a faster alternative route to the city, considering that the major thoroughfare, the Alabang-Zapote Road, is congested most, if not all, of the time.
“We should have been okay by now, but probably after three years, we’ll be much better,” Villar said.
“I’d still do it on my own, anyway,” she said, adding that with her son Mark as the incumbent representative and her brother as the mayor, “I think there would not be as many problems ahead.”
(Story courtesy of Miko L. Morelos of Philippine Daily Inquirer)