THERE'S a day dedicated to many environmental concerns. There’s Earth Day, Earth Hour, Environment Day, Oceans Day, Recycling Day, Water Day, Arbor Day, and so on and so forth. Last September 15 was International Coastal Clean-up Day and this coming Sunday (September 30) is World River’s Day (WRD). Started in 2005, WRD is annually celebrated on the last Sunday of every September.

According to the World Rivers Day website, WRD is a celebration of the world’s waterways. It highlights the many values of rivers, strives to increase public awareness, and encourages the improved stewardship of all rivers around the world. Rivers in virtually every country face an array of threats like pollution from households, agriculture and industries. There are also conflicting uses for domestic, agriculture, industry, recreation and fisheries purposes. In the Philippines there’s also the problem of informal settlers along river banks.

The Philippines has 412 principal river basins in 119 proclaimed watersheds. Of these, 19 are considered major river basins. The longest river is the Cagayan River in Region II. Our very own Pampanga River, also known as Rio Grande de Pampanga, is the second largest river in Luzon. It is also the third largest and 4th longest river in the Philippines.

The government is exerting efforts to clean-up rivers. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is engaging the private sector through its Adopt-a-Estero project to help clean up creeks that connects to rivers. Several government agencies were also mandated by the Supreme Court to clean-up Manila Bay, which means having to clean-up its tributaries like the Pampanga River.

A more institutionalized approach in cleaning and protecting our rivers is the designation of river systems as Water Quality Management Areas (WQMA). Section 5 of RA 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004 tasked the DENR, in coordination with the National Water Resources Board, to designate certain areas as WQMA using appropriate physiographic units such as watershed, river basins or water resources regions.

The objective of the WQMA is to protect, through stakeholders collaboration, the water body and its tributaries by keeping their water quality within the Water Quality Guidelines or Criteria conforming to the water body’s classification even improve the quality to higher classification. A WQMA Action Plan will be prepared in order to address water quality issues and problems in the area and later result to the improvement or better water quality of the said water body.

The WQMAs shall be governed by a governing board composed of representatives of mayors and governors of member LGUs, and representatives of relevant national government agencies, duly registered nongovernmental organization, water utility sector, and business sector. The DENR representative through the EMB shall chair the governing board.

As of August 1, 2018, there are 37 officially-designated WQMAs, including the areas within the jurisdiction of LLDA, which was designated as one management area by virtue of the Clean Water Act. In Region 3, there’s already a WQMA for the Marilao-Meycauyan-Obando River System which was tagged as one of the dirtiest places on Earth by the Blacksmith Institute.

The government cannot do all the work of cleaning and protecting rivers. All of us should do our share. Let’s start by not throwing our trash, especially plastic, into our rivers.