Economic losses due to illnesses, decreasing number of aquatic resources, and decreasing tourist visitors are just a few of the outcomes of river pollution. And the Amburayan River System is not exempted from these. The most persistent pollutant of the Amburayan River since water quality monitoring was conducted in the 20 monitoring stations is fecal coliform which is way above the acceptable DENR standard.
Fecal coliforms are from the excreta of warm-blooded animals and humans. Their presence in the river may be due to unmanaged or improper management of wastes from piggeries, poultry, and cattle. It may also be due to improper sanitation practices or facilities of communities along the river.
For community awareness and to mitigate this concern, two activities on Sustainable Sanitation were conducted. These were participated in by Rural Sanitary Inspectors, Barangay Health Workers, Barangay Nutrition Scholars, Punong Barangay, Sangguniang Bayan Committees on Environment and Health, Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officers and People Organizations and were facilitated by the Department of Health, Provincial Health Office and the Jaime V. Ongpin Foundation, Inc.
Last April 10 to 11, an Orientation on Sustainable Sanitation was conducted for the Upper Amburayan River LGUs. The orientation focused on the sanitation situation of the six municipalities of Benguet and how this situation contributes to the health and economic burden in the province as well as on managing farm animal wastes. A site walk-through in Naguey, Atok was conducted to expose the participants to the actual scenario in the area specifically along the Upper Amburayan River. Through a workshop session, the participants shared their observations on causes and solutions of the present sanitation situation in their respective sites.
On April 25 to 28, another Sustainable Sanitation training was conducted for the Lower Amburayan River LGUs. The four day training was on Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) which is about achieving and sustaining zero open defecation (ZOD) status. The strategy of CLTS revolves around three words shock, disgust and shame, a triggering process focused on awareness-raising to bring about change in behavior among the members of the targeted community requiring no hardware subsidy but community awareness and cooperation in striving for a ZOD status. Part of this training was hands-on field exercise where the participants were grouped and assigned communities to trigger. One method used was an analysis of the community’s own sanitation situation and profile through “Defecation Area Mapping”, ¾effectively illustrating the defecation patterns in the community. This was followed by a “Transect Walk” where the community visited the areas where they defecated and samples were taken to visually explain the effects of open defecation. These methods served as eye opener to each of the community members. The training participants then initiated a ZOD action planning. A sense of urgency was brought up, stressing the need for proper defecation areas like water-sealed toilets or other affordable sanitation facilities like pit privies.
Realizing and achieving our sanitation goals and targets means we have to act now. A sense of urgency is needed to fully resolve these issues. As shared during the trainings, “The greatest pressure of the environment is people.” We are the main contributor to what is happening in our environment and it is only us who can resolve it.
Protecting and Defending the Amburayan River Basin and Watershed through Good Governance and Active Peoples’ Participation is a project funded by the USAID through the Gerry Roxas Foundation (GRF) and is implemented by the Jaime V. Ongpin Foundation Inc. (JVOFI)
//Amburayan Project GIS and Visibility Officer