The Philippines is a developing nation that has experienced a rapid rise in urbanization and industrialization as its population has grown rapidly . Unfortunately, this rapid development has come at a price of increased water pollution, with 47 percent of all surveyed water bodies in the country having good water quality, 40 percent having only fair water quality, and 13 percent having poor water quality .
Around 50 of the 421 rivers in the Philippines are now considered to be “biologically dead,” supplying sufficient oxygen for only the most hardy species to survive there .
Causes of water pollution in the Philippines
Each type of pollutant can have different toxic and negative effects that can hurt human health and the environment, resulting in high economic costs for both the population and government entities.
#1 Untreated raw sewage
Due to a lack of sufficient and effective sewage treatment infrastructure, only about 10 percent of the sewage in the Philippines is properly treated . Much of this waste is directly discarded into waterways, particularly in low income urban areas that lack sufficient infrastructure to support proper treatment of this waste .
Such waste can spread disease-causing organisms and can cause waterborne diseases, such as gastroenteritis, diarrhea, typhoid, cholera, dysentery, and hepatitis. An estimated 58% of the groundwater in the Philippines has been contaminated with coliform bacteria and should be treated .
#2 Industrial wastewater
Specific pollutants vary by each industry, but common industrial pollutants include chromium, cadmium, lead, mercury and cyanide. Such pollutants are dumped directly into water bodies on a daily basis .
#3 Agricultural wastewater
Pollutants from agriculture can include dead plants, manure, dead animals, soil erosion runoff, and pesticides and fertilizers .
#4 Domestic wastewater
Wastewater from households can contain disease-causing organisms or toxic chemicals .
#5 Non-point sources
Non-point sources of water pollution can include runoff from rain and groundwater and from landfills, as well as solid wastes.
This type of pollution can contain some of the same toxic chemicals that industrial wastewater contains.
#6 Other sources
These can include spills from oil and other chemicals, abandoned mines, and the dumping of wastes near or directly into water bodies.
There are a number of actions that the nation of the Philippines can take to address its national problems associated with water pollution.
- The people of the Philippines need to be made aware of the health and economic impacts of water pollution, and they should be encouraged to be become involved in decision making processes that affect water management policies. Stakeholders across all sectors also need to work together in order to prioritize and adopt actions affecting water quality .
- Wastewater treatment infrastructure should be connected to all properties that are accessible and connectable, and smaller treatment solutions, such as the use of dedicated constructed wetlands to treat sewage and waterless sanitation facilities, should be used whenever possible to reduce construction costs and meet sanitation needs on a more local scale.
- Wastewater fees should be increased, with high fees and fines for those who pollute water resources.
- Organic and ecological farming practices, such as the the use of permaculture and biodynamic growing methods, should be adopted throughout the country, to reduce soil erosion and eliminate the need for polluting agricultural chemicals.
- The Philippines passed a national Clean Water Act in 2004, with the intention of protecting water resources. The Act aims to engage and encourage local governments, water districts, communities, and the private sector to work together to solve the nation’s water pollution challenges .
- The focus of the law is to create effective wastewater treatment, production that is cleaner, and the adoption of those technologies that help to reduce waste. Incentives include tax exemptions and tax credits on imported and domestic capital equipment .
- In order to ensure that sectors fulfill the requirements associated with the incentives, partnerships with local government and non-governmental organizations are required .
- However, with limited resources and insufficient collaboration between organizations, the practical implementation and enforcement of the law have been inadequate to ensure compliance thus far .
- Increased public education, multi-sector collaborative solutions, and the proper implementation and enforcement of the Clean Water Act and other water quality regulations in the Philippines will be necessary to transform the nation’s water supply.