Armed with shovels, rakes and other hand-made tools, the residents, mostly from the riverside Barangay Banaba of San Mateo, Rizal, excavated the debris and garbage and placed them in sacks in order to restore the water flow of the Nangka River. The community action was done from morning till the afternoon.
“Mayor Marites Fernando and the local government of Marikina committed a crime to our environment by dumping waste and typhoon debris into the Nangka River. Worst, they neglected the responsibility to clean-up their mess and to provide a clear rehabilitation program for the said river,” said Noli Abinales of the disaster-risk prevention group Buklod Tao.
A major tributary of the Marikina River, the Nangka River also serves as the boundary of the Marikina City and San Mateo, Rizal. Post-Ondoy debris and waste collected for many weeks in the streets of Barangay Nangka and nearby villages by the personnel of Marikina City and Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) were dumped into the said river.
According to Abinales, the dumping of waste and debris caused siltation and narrowed the width of the Nangka River, thereby putting further at risk the residents living adjacent the said waterway.
“We decided to act and excavate the debris that we can remove to reduce possible risks that the rainy season may bring anew. We should have learned our lessons from Ondoy and we do not want a similar disaster to befall us,” said Abinales.
The clean-up is also a part of an ongoing program of Buklod Tao in partnership with Christian Aid, Community Organizing for Philippine Enterprise (COPE) and Swiss Interchurch Aid (HEKS).
Meanwhile the pollution watchdog EcoWaste Coalition challenged the administration of Mayor Fernando to take the responsibility of cleaning up and rehabilitating the Nangka River and other tributaries of the Marikina River.
“Our rivers are not dumpsites. It is a vital ecosystem that should be protected at all cost. Mayor Fernando should take ample steps to immediately address the clean-up and rehabilitation of the Nangka River and ensure that such environmental crime will never happen again,” said Rei Panaligan of the EcoWaste Coalition.
“The people took the initiative for the Nangka River. Our government officials should step up and ensure that similar efforts will be continued,” said Panaligan.