By Jason B. Neola
NAGA CITY --- Aside from taking efforts to achieve better air quality, the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) is dead serious about improving the water quality of the Naga River, which is, at present under the ‘C’ category.
The campaign for a cleaner Naga River, according to Alexander Caning, who assumed the position of city environment and natural resources officer last February 1, this year, will cost the city government around P8M to be used to procure one unit of water treatment facility (WTF) to be set up at the Naga City People’s Mall (NCPM) near the former site of the city slaughterhouse.
He said that although the ‘C’ status suggests that eutrophication is not happening yet in the river, his office will continue to mull plans to improve the river’s water quality. Eutrophication is the process by which a body of water becomes enriched in dissolved nutrients such as phosphates that stimulate the growth of aquatic plant life usually resulting in the depletion of dissolved oxygen.
“We proposed to Mayor John Bongat that we put up a Water Treatment Facility (WTF) at the Naga City People’s Mall so that we can avoid draining the market’s wastewater directly to the Naga River without the benefit of treatment,” says Caning who previously worked at the Environment Management Bureau of the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for 28 years.
The City ENRO chief, who also worked as EMB’s senior environmental specialist in the province of Catanduanes for 11 years, said that if wastewater is not properly treated before having it drained, the river can be negatively affected and harm its fish and wildlife population. The situation will also lead to oxygen depletion.
With Mayor Bongat’s approval to purchase the facility, the office is now in the process of studying the kind of wastewater that NCPM has been generating, the volume of wastewater being generated on daily basis and other related information or data.
Caning said the City ENRO’s River Patrol Team that gathers litters from the river also conducts series of monitoring on individuals or households violating environmental laws and ordinances. “The team is instructed to identify the violators and document the violations for our office to make a formal report about the unlawful activities,” he said.
The Solid Waste Management Office (SWMO) headed by Engr. Joel Martin regularly sends garbage trucks to the city’s 27 barangays, including those situated along the Naga River, to collect household wastes. Barangays where garbage trucks cannot move in because of tiny or crowded streets like Barangay Peñafrancia were issued with pedicabs to pick up instead the garbage then deliver them to the barangay’s Materials Recovery Facility (MRF),.
The barangays and the SWMO had organized groups of residents called Kalinigan Warriors and the Barangay Environment Committees to run use pedicabs and the MRFs to keep the barangays clean and green.
“But all these things [about the city government’s effort] will go to naught without the cooperation of the people,” Caning said.
Saying that the river traditionally serves as channel for the pagoda of Nuestra Sra. De Peñafrancia during the annual fluvial processions, Caning reminded the Nagueños, especially those residing near the riverbanks that “if we continue to throw garbage at the Naga River and if we do not even care to make it clean and free from household wastes, it could only mean that we do not respect our Ina.”
Caning, when he was still the administrative officer of EMB at the regional office and concurrent provincial management officer in Camarines Sur, had been supportive of the campaign for the Naga River. “It was during my years at the EMB when Naga River was included as one of the DENR’s water quality management areas wherein EMB programs are aligned to the programs being implemented by the LGU for the river,” he said.