THE Naga River is ill.
While great efforts, especially on the part of the city government, volunteer groups, the academe and students, have been forged to keep the river from dying, many of us, especially those living near it, those who are perceived to be most affected, as well as those residing near tributaries whose wastes are sure to flow down the river, simply do not care. And we are doing much worse by not doing at all or making it right to save the river.
A recent tour around the river showed wastes and piles of plastic floating on the surface whose color and texture is slimy dark brown indicating mud and sludge that one can’t see what’s underneath. Still, few illegal shacks and concrete structures could be seen in some sections of the riverbank, from the Tabuco Bridge towards Barangays Dayangdang, Penafrancia and San Felipe, the latter two noticeably having the most pile of floating garbage.
We have been told that the city’s environment office, in collaboration with the barangay councils along the river stretch, has been dispatching on a daily basis a boat crew to scoop up plastic and other wastes found floating in the river and yet wastes continue piling because many people seem not to care.
It was centuries ago that the Naga River was a clean body of water where people take a bath, wash their clothes, and fish for their meal, aside from safely transporting their goods or passengers from one section of the river to the other. Of course, people were few then and they have since mushroomed into a hundredfold now. But that should not be an excuse because people must have been more educated now and had invented tools and technology to save nature from dying. Obviously, the opposite is happening. No longer do we see the beauty and the safety of the waterway. Not even the costly concrete revetments helped to secure and beautify it.
For a brief period we saw the observance of the annual Naga River Day and the ceremonial dispersing of fingerlings into the river as a way to raise consciousness among the citizenry. Earlier, the city succeeded in removing all backyard piggeries among homes dotting the riverbanks. Garbage collection was made relatively more efficient on land. Somehow, the oxygen levels improved, allowing fish and other living organisms to recover, with birds flying over it. But, lo and behold, piles of trash continue to end up at the Naga River. The empathy is more than just an eyesore – they continue to contaminate, bring foul smell, and threaten the health of those living near it.
The constant, or shall we say seasonal, cleanup is simply not enough. For one, there must be conscious effort to clean and sustain all tributaries, and accordingly, sewage treatment plants must be put in strategic places to keep the waste water cleaner and rid of toxic elements, sludge and slime before they flow into the river. Both sides of the river must be kept brighter especially at night by installing lampposts and for good measure CCTVs to keep polluters at bay. Someday, when funds become available, dredging of the river must be done to keep away all the mud from the once sandy river beds. But most important of all, public consciousness must be raised, even to the point of strictly penalizing those who would not heed local laws about proper disposal of wastes. By the way, the sewage treatment plants must start with industrial and commercial establishments, not only along the Naga River but all those whose factories, including subdivisions are lying near or along all waterways in the city.
The patient that is Naga River is dying and everything must be done to save it. It is our life support and a very important element of our history, culture, and heritage.