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Tumaga River: A River of Broken Dreams

BRUNEI DARUSSALAM | Wednesday, 23 March 2011 | Views [1012]

Do my promise for over 30 years ago, that I made for the Tumaga River, will remains the blood and life of my fellow Zamboangenos? Does that wishing stone which I threw, in the late afternoon, at the middle of the river, answer to what I promise before? In the hope, I want to see that this river will always exist as what I have seen it when I was six years old.

This is just one of amongst my countless childhood promises that I’ve made. A promise, that it still reminisce me every time I see this death river that was once a lively, colorful and blissful river in the past. But now, it’s all gone - the vivid wildness that was once a great attraction to the neighboring locals of yesterdays. This great river supplied water to the city coming from the highest mountain region called the Batorampon point in the peninsula of Zamboanga City Philippines. The water flows directly to the river canal at the Tumaga district then it passes through the Tetuan and then next to Barangay Tugbungan and lastly to the Tictabon channel which now polluted water.

Way back in the early 80’s, neighbors surrounded along the river was once lucky enough embracing it. The water was crystal clear and through that it creates rapids. Sometimes you could see them catching a lobster, a shrimp and most of all the local fish called Tilapia by using their home-made fishing nets. Some had benefitted for their household needs wherein they dig a deep hole at the sand dune that is five meters away from the river and three meters deep to filter a crystal clear for clean drinking water. Since the pipe from the water district at that time is limited only for those residences along the main road, those staying in the interior vicinity of the village could not be reached-through, and by no other means the residences found some other alternative to connect a bamboo pipe directly from the spring water of the river down to their residences that it directly flows to their kitchen sink.

During weekend, my brother and I, neighboring friends and cousins are always going there, to catch fishes. Like the colorful guppy which I usually catches to put it in a bottle aquarium for decoration. While the women at their 20’s were excited doing their laundry on the side of the river rather than at their houses. At far distance you could hear the sounds of a bludgeoning paddle which they used to spunk the wet clothes in a wooden flat board to remove its dirt’s while they cheerfully chat among their friends. Depending a lot from the river saves more water from the district reservoir in the coming catastrophe at that time. Before, around 80’s, no such issue of water rationing occurs. Laughters of the people both adult and children, the splash of water in far distance due to diving by locals from the wooden San Joaquin bridge in Tetuan district have made it very tempting to others to visit and spend most of their time at the river. It was such a vibrant river of the past with full of vigor and zest to ones who had witness a true virgin river.

Years passed. Things are changing as the population grows countless. The physical features had changed. Most of the neighbors are destroying it little by little by dumping their garbage directly towards the river. The increase amount of drainage tank connecting directly to the river has made the water more polluted. The local officials had approved to put up a dam to cater water to the kaingin (rice field) way back in the late 80’s, that clot the free flowing stream like rapids into a stagnant water. From the start of that project the dead sentence imposes through the Tumaga River begins. Factories had built-up and dumped their waste towards the river. Tall trees and mangrove trees were cut down due to its industrial and residential development. Other took illegal mining which makes the river more hopeless. Residences ignored the fact that one day little bad habits that destruct the environment will creates a big havoc soon.

The effect, it obviously, changes the lifestyle of the people, the way they were secured making themselves free from diseases and abundance of water. Neighbors had begun to subscribe for mineral drinking water in a bottle company. Likewise for those who could not afford, they remain drinking from the top water supplied directly from the water district reservoir, which sometimes causes an increase number of diarrhea, the like diseases and infection which kills children under five years old, based from the report, in Sun Star Zamboanga in 2001. Accordingly, 50 villagers down by diarrhea by drinking contaminated water coming from the faucet (source: http://www.sunstar.com.ph/static/zam/2005/08/24/news/50.villagers.down.by.diarrhea.html) and just in 2009 another two kids die from dehydration issued by the ABS CBN news on April seven 2009 (source: http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/regions/04/07/09/two-kids-die-dehydration-zamboanga-city).

Consequently, as what one of the victim’s mother said, they do not have access to safe drinking water, instead they just bought it per gallon to their neighbors and that is the reason why her four children began vomiting pushing two lost their lives. Others had bought their own tank to preserve water but for those less fortunate, depend a lot from the water district. Sometimes, the water district of Zamboanga City faces another problem during El Niño phenomenon, due to insufficient water reservoirs to reserve and to cater water for every household within the city. So they do it in rationing, however the reserved water last just for more than eight months as approximated. But the disadvantages, it increases the insanitation lifestyle of the irresponsible people who causes a detrimental to the public health needs.

Therefore, what should we do about it? There are many ways to solve this water crisis, even it will take time, but we need patience. I think it can decipher in three important areas to protect its water shortages and sanitation in a fast way. These are: Law, Education, and Medium. Let us consider first about the law of the country. If there are a strict ordinance to be imposed by the government to protect Mother Nature by no means of corruption, people will be controlled and will be limited in destroying its natural resources either it would be on land, on water, or in the air. Like for example in Singapore and Brunei they have a strict law with regarding corruptions and to its implementation in protecting their environment as a whole. As a result they are less in encountering water shortages problem and bacterial infection coming from polluted water in their country. Secondly, Education; continues education to the public not only in school but at home, always reminds individuals the needs of good hygiene not only for themselves but for others. Imposing the needs of proper waste disposal, must be taught to every household to protect its immediate environment free from diseases. Let them learn by doing, maybe to ask someone who would help the government to conduct such training programs to the community the importance of proper waste disposal as well as protecting its environment at large that is free from diseases etc. And lastly, the medium; Medium is the voice of the nation; they must always promote either in print ads, radio or television the importance of preserving nature for a healthy environment and a healthy living. It can also be used as a source of voicing out to some illegal activities done by greedy individuals who doesn’t care about the environment. So people will be aware ahead of time with regards to the consequences of their irresponsibility - not protecting and preserving its nature.

Most compelling evidence, as written by MITHRE J SANDRASAGRA of the UN-Water in 2006, he state that, water shortage problem is due to lack of proper management both from the local government and the private sector. Another he mentioned about the cancerous corruption, The lack of appropriate institutions to deal with illegal activities by protecting the environment, The bureaucratic inertia and the shortage of new investments in building human capacity as well as physical infrastructures are all factors that contributing to the water crisis we are facing now (sources: http://www.mg.co.za/article/2007-03-22-world-water-day-highlights-global-crisis). He says that if this practices continue in taking for granted, UN-water warns that in 2015 the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) will not meet the target proportion of people to have access to safe drinking water and will not be met either the basic needs of good sanitation and hygiene to its people. Now who’s the victim? It might be me, you or anybody in the next generation to come.

So what we could do? Danilo Dolci once quoted “It is important to know that words do not move mountains. Work, exacting work moves mountains.” And that is the only thing we can preserved it to maintain a healthy living not only for us but for our future children.

Tags: phenomenon, pollution, river, tumaga, tumaga river, water, water pollution, zamboanga city

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