Sánchez: Trash burning

RESIDENTS of Purok Tumpok, Blumentritt, Murcia have all the right to complain against the smoke from the burning open dumpsite in Barangay Felisa, and have requested the Bacolod City government to solve the problem.

Off the bat, the Murcia folks need not even ask. They have all the right to demand their rights to a clean environment, according to Chapter 6 of RA 6003, a.k.a. the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

Chapter 6 of RA 6003 bans littering, throwing, dumping of waste matters in public places; undertaking activities in violation of sanitation operation; and open burning of solid waste.

Executive Assistant María Fe Tresfuentes assured the Murciahanons that
Bacolod will try to find a solution, but asked for time to resolve the problem.

Not good enough. In October 2012, the DENR signed a deal with the mayors of the cities of Butuan, Cabanatuan, Legazpi, General Santos, Iloilo and Bacolod to formalize their participation in the Integrated Persistent Organic Pollutants Project or IPOPS.

The mayors committed themselves to reducing pollutants called “dioxins” and “furans” in their respective localities not only in backyards but in their cities’ dumps.

“Dioxins and furans are two of what we call the ‘dirty dozen’ chemicals whose worldwide use and production are strictly covered by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants signed in 2001 because of their long-term serious impact on the environment and public health,” said DENR Environment Secretary Ramon Paje.

But unlike the other chemicals on the list, dioxins and furans are “unintentional pollutants,” as they are byproducts of incomplete combustion, or burning, of materials such as household garbage, Paje said.

“The emissions or usok (smoke) that we create whenever we burn our garbage in our backyards, and also as a result of the spontaneous combustion in open dumps, contain these two chemicals,” he said.

Under the DENR-LGU agreement, the city governments will stop the practice of burning garbage in dumps, rehabilitate them and resort to using landfills. They will also prevent the practice of open burning in backyards and other public places.

This agreement with the DENR is still binding although it was the former Bacolod mayor who signed the agreement. In fact, the agreement was a redundancy since RA 6003 is still in force.

Secretary Paje added that according to the US Environmental Protection
Agency, the two chemicals were likely “cancer causing substances to human.”

The bigger picture is that unregulated trash burning around the globe is pumping far more pollution into the atmosphere than shown by official records.

Last year, a research study of the National Center for Atmospheric Research estimates that more than 40 percent of the world’s garbage is burned in such fires, emitting gases and particles that can substantially affect human health and climate change.

The study provided the first rough estimates of pollutants such as particulates, carbon monoxide, and mercury that are emitted by the fires. Such pollutants have been linked to serious medical issues.

“Air pollution across much of the globe is significantly underestimated because no one is tracking open-fire burning of trash,” said NCAR scientist Christine Wiedinmyer, lead author of the study. Wiedinmyer and her co-authors estimated 1 billion metric tons, or 41 percent, of the total waste generated worldwide is disposed of through unregulated burning every year.

So Ms Tresfuentes “try to find a solution” is not good enough. Just do it!


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