Anna Velas-Suarin

My niece asks her Mom, “Why are the rivers here in Aurora clean?”

We were on the way back to Manila from a family vacation in Aurora Province when my niece, Danica, suddenly asks her Mom, “Why are the rivers here in Aurora clean?”

In urban children’s minds, clean waters just seem to be a figment of their imagination. In Aurora, Danica found out that they are still real.

Everyone in the car was surprised with that question. It was a very simple one but carries with it such a complex dimension of environmental degradation. Being the environmental professional in the family, I was expected to answer her question. Frankly, I was challenged with her question, too.

In a mix of Tagalog and English, I tried to give her a simple answer. I told her that what she sees in the city (Metro Manila) are just like the ones she saw in Aurora, many years ago. Except that the city dwellers did not love and care for their rivers so much that they took them for granted and did not give a damn about throwing their garbage and waste on them. I wanted to give her a more complex answer about the impact of population growth and urbanization to the environment but I decided that my first reply was enough for now.

Days after that, hubby and I were still pondering about her question. We realized that in Danica’s mind, it was “natural” to see dirty river waters so, therefore, it was unimaginable to actually see clean rivers! Now we fully understood why she immediately jumped into (and did not want to leave anymore) the river bordering Mom’s farm. We had to convince her that we are going to another river the next day.

When Danica saw this river, we couldn’t get her out of the water anymore! (By the way, this is one of the fantastic views if you are perched on the edge of Mom’s farm).

Her question touched us deeply because we thought about the other children in the urban areas–those who have not even seen a clean river or stream. What a terrible kind of deprivation that they will all grow up not even experiencing how is it to wade and swim in clean bodies of freshwater. Of course, they can always go to the nearest pools in 5-star hotels or beaches such as in Batangas (which are just 4 to 5 hours away from Manila) but it is still different to experience the non-salty and natural (non-chlorinated) types of river waters. Bathing in freshwater is stilldifferent from bathing in salt water and artificial pools. It is still a different experience to marvel at and sit on those huge rocks, knowing that those were shaped by the rushing of the waters over thousands of years.

Danica and Anne at the Caunayan Falls. Suddenly, their joys are mine, too.

What have we urbanites done to our environment, specifically, our river waters? When will we ever pause for a while and think about how we are depriving many generations of children the sheer joy of wading and swimming in crystal-clear river waters? And we are not yet asking about the grave health and ecological implications of water pollution here…

As we ponder on these questions, let me then share with you a brief rundown of some of the salient points (in terms of prohibitions) of the Philippines Clean Water Act of 2004 (Republic Act 9275).

Under the law, it is prohibited to:

1. Deposit material of any kind which could cause water pollution;

2. Discharge, inject, or allow to seep into the earth any substance that would pollute groundwater;

3. Operate facilities that discharge regulated water pollutants without the valid required permits;

4. For LGUs not to comply with the Water Quality Management Action Plan; and

5. Directly use booster pumps in the distribution system or tamper with the water supply.

So, dear readers, I hope that in our own little ways, we can become environmental advocates even in our own families and communities. Who knows, the child who listens to us may just, one day, become the Secretary of the Environment, a multi-awarded ecological expert, or even a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for the Environment.

As they say, a single drop on the water creates not just a single wave but a ripple effect that extends far beyond the point of contact.

Be that drop and create your own ripples!


This is not a paid blog.

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