Editorial: Rivers, a public toilet

IF YOU go through the history books, one would see the importance of rivers to a society. The rivers have been used as an avenue to transport goods and people, source of water for agriculture, and source of food.

Sadly, the river is also being used as a public toilet for some. The same river that is being used for other uses, it is also where some urinate or defecate.

On SunStar Davao’s front page on November 20, 2019, we published a photo of a man taking a dump at the Davao River. This is not something new as it is common knowledge to some that the river is being used as a toilet by those living along the riverbanks.

However, we cannot totally fault them for not having a proper toilet where they can defecate or urinate. Some of them may not have the resources to have a toilet at their homes. Some of the feces that make their way to the river may not also come from humans but may have also come from animals. Some of the wastes may also find their way to the river as some may dump their wastewater into the river.

The Davao River, which flows through Davao City, has been reported to have alarming level of fecal coliform.

In a June 28, 2019 report by SunStar Davao, tests from the Ambient Water Quality Monitoring Unit (AWQMU) of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) showed that the fecal coliform level in the Davao River is high, which may trigger adverse health effects.

Miralou Blanco, head of EMB-AWQMU in Davao Region, said there are areas of the river that reached thousand fecal coliform most probable number (MPN) per 100 milliliters (ml).

She pointed out though that the current level of fecal coliform in Davao River has decreased following the Zero Defecation Campaign and promotion of septic tank in all toilets for informal settlers residing along the river. However, she said while the fecal coliform has dropped, it is still high based on their existing standards and guidelines.

Blanco said this may lead to water-borne diseases.

In September, City Health Office said poliovirus was detected in one of the city’s riverbanks based on water samples sourced from the Davao River near the Bolton Bridge area. Polio is transmitted through feces.

With this, there is a need for health officials and local government units to strengthen its campaign against open defecation. With its existing programs like the Zero Defecation Campaign and promotion of septic tank in all toilets for informal settlers residing along the river, there is a possibility that the local government unit can still lower the number of people using the river as a toilet.

Since some of those living along the riverbanks are informal settlers, the government might want to look into the possibility of having a program where it can establish additional temporary common toilets for those living in these areas.

Health officials may also want to strengthen their advocacy when it comes to the Zero Defecation Campaign. Instead of just simply posters, they may want to have regular visits to communities near the riverbanks and educate them why it is important to not use the river as a public toilet.

While Davao River is not as bad as some rivers, let us not wait for it to worsen before it will be too late. The existing Zero Defecation Campaign and promotion of the use of septic tanks have proven that it can lower the level of fecal coliform in our river. If we just strengthen these programs and properly educate those living along the riverbanks, we can still save Davao River.


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