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Saving Manila esteros: Green in, garbage out

By: - Reporter / @erikaINQ
/ 02:45 AM June 05, 2014

RAFT OF REWARDS Years ago, this man would not have been able to see his own reflection on the water because of the carpet of trash covering Estero de San Miguel. The waterway is now one of the rehabilitated tributaries of Pasig River in Manila. Erika Sauler/INQUIRER

“Clean water soon.”

These words were formed by vetiver grass, a plant that filters sediments and absorbs heavy metals, now being grown on “floating islands” along Estero de San Miguel in Manila to signify its revival after decades of pollution.

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The Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC) on Wednesday inaugurated the newly improved waterway, a tributary that runs behind Malacañang and one of the 16 marked for cleanup and development this year by a multisectoral initiative.

Aside from phytoremediation or the treatment of contaminated water using plants, the PRRC had also conducted dredging, built linear parks and made floating islands out of ornamental vegetation.

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PRRC spent P52 million for the rehabilitation of the 2.3-kilometer Estero de San Miguel alone, an effort that also involved clearing the banks of over a hundred families who had built shanties in the area. The informal settlers were later relocated to Bulacan province.

“The restoration of Estero de San Miguel brings us closer toward the goal of cleaner waterways throughout Metro Manila,” according to the marker unveiled by PRRC Chair Gina Lopez and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chair Francis Tolentino.

The project was done in partnership with the city government of Manila, the Department of Public Works and Highways, Kapit Bisig Para sa Ilog Pasig, and the Local Interagency Committee.

Legitimate homeowners near the esteros were also made to undergo ecological seminars that trained them to become “river warriors” tasked to protect the waterways against improper waste disposal.

Last year, the PRRC completed the rehabilitation of Estero de Aviles and Santibañez, also in Manila. A similar success story can also be told about Esteros de Sampaloc and de Valencia, where markers will be unveiled later this month.

The commission is targeting five more waterways within Manila: Esteros De la Reina, Magdalena, San Lazaro, De Vitas and Cabulusan.

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TAGS: “Floating Islands”, Bulacan province, Esteros de San Miguel, Francis Tolentino, Gina Lopez, Malacañang, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission, PRRC
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