A river runs through it
FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben Almendras (The Freeman) - March 26, 2019 - 12:00am

The recent concern by the local and national government in cleaning up the rivers is welcome news to me and should be to all of us, as rivers are very important to healthy and sustainable living. This actually ties in with the current concern about the dwindling water sources and supply, as rivers are integral to the preservation and conservation of water sources. The rivers when I was a small boy were clean and green, with shrimps and fishes. We swam in the rivers and knew how to make drinkable water from the river’s edge by digging a hole with the right sand and gravel that naturally filters the river water. And mothers would be seen washing clothes in some portions of the river, while a carabao is bathing downriver. This is a scene from an Amorsolo painting and I lived it.

Now, many years later, our rivers are dirty, stinky and do not have much water in them. I pass by many rivers during my trips to northern Cebu, and most of them are in bad shape and can hardly sustain vegetation, fish, or any wildlife. Some are full of smelly garbage, depleted of sand and gravel, and have less water even during rainy months. The rivers near Metro Cebu are in even worse condition. Eleven years ago, when I was MCWD chairman, we walked the river from the Escario Street bridge all the way up to the source of the river. At that time this river was already dying so by this time it should be near death unless we do something.

Rivers are natural dams that retard the downflow of water from the mountains, so it replenishes the surrounding groundwater and improves the water table. I remember a theoretical computation on the equivalence of a river 10 kilometers long, by 10 meters wide, by five meters deep with a sand and gravel bed, to a 100-meter concrete dam in terms of the amount of water it holds. Not sure now about the computations, but it makes sense. Rivers are also natural water filters to make potable water for vegetation, aquatic wildlife, and human life to thrive.

Here are some of the initiatives we wanted to do in MCWD: We needed to define the geographic boundaries of all the Metro Cebu rivers and implement the required two-meter legal easement for all structures near the rivers. We have to push back and/or relocate all informal settlers near the river and provide them with septic tanks. Then we clean up the river beds and define/re-contour the surfaces with the objective of putting up side catchments for water retention. Restrict sand and gravel extraction by having barangays assign river guards to monitor the cleanliness of their assigned river areas.

Then, plant vegetation and trees in strategic areas. I had even proposed that the whole length of the Guadalupe River be made into a park with a four-meter easement on both sides and footbridges spanning the river at every kilometer. The funding for this project should come from selected foreign embassies in the country, each of them providing funds for the footbridges crossing the river and the one-kilometer concrete easements on both sides which will be designed and named after the donor country. This project had a timetable of two years and would still be doable as a public/private project.

The title of this article is actually a book and a movie directed by Robert Redford with Brad Pitt as one of the main characters. It is a coming of age movie with fly fishing in the river as a major background and theme. It tells about the twists and turns in the river of life.

CLEAN WATER ACT
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