The Pasig River is a 27-kilometer body of water that traverses across Metro Manila between a freshwater lake and Manila Bay. Once a major transport route, source of water and thriving ecosystem, the river is intimately connected to Philippine history. Today, it is one of the most polluted and toxic river systems in the Philippines. The Pasig River is currently considered the ‘toilet bowl’ of Manila and is a dumping ground for domestic and industrial waste.
A tributary to the Pasig River prior to commencement of the project – there is a river beneath the rubbish
The ABS-CBN Foundation together with the Philippines’ Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) are co-managing the rehabilitation of the Metro Manila water basin, with an initial focus on the Pasig River and its tributaries. The seven-year Pasig River rehabilitation project involves fund-raising campaigns; education campaigns to create awareness among residents about preventing pollution; improving the water quality and physical appearance of the waterway; and the relocation of 4,000 informal settlers along the river.
In October last year, Alluvium staff member Keryn and her partner Ian (from Engineers Without Borders) travelled to Manila in a volunteer capacity to assist the ABS-CBN Foundation/DENR with this ambitious project. They ran workshops on water quality fundamentals for Foundation and DENR staff; provided advice on current rehabilitation activities along tributaries; and led a workshop with the management staff to develop a process for appointing and reviewing water treatment/rehabilitation technologies and contractors. Keryn and Ian will be maintaining contact with the Foundation and providing advice where possible throughout the project’s life.
The headwaters of Estero de Paco, a tributary of the Pasig River in October 2010 after the commencement of design and treatment efforts
Despite the technical challenges, this project is essentially a social one. It aims to change the residents’ behavior and attitude to the river. Many people we spoke to on the ground told us how inspired they are by the current efforts and excited by the prospect of a future healthy river. Gina Lopez, Director of the ABS-CBN Foundation and a media-based philanthropist, heads up the project with a passion. She said “Cleaning the Pasig River is not just about cleaning the water of a river. I feel the ramifications, if we clean this river; it will give our people hope. It’s for our future. It’s reverence for the environment. It’s resuscitating a frame of consciousness which is essential for this country if we do it in the main waterway of the capital city of the country”.
San Miguel – a tributary to the Pasig River in October 2010 – the next focus of physical works