This post is from Larah Ortega Ibañez, Pure Earth’s coordinator in the Philippines.
This April, under the searing sun, over 200 volunteers from HSBC Philippines and the local community showed up to help Pure Earth take action against river pollution.
Together, the group planted over 100 Camachileand and Talisay trees along the shoreline of Laguna Lake, collected 500 sacks (10,090 lbs/ 4.5 tonnes) of garbage, and helped to take water samples at eight stations along the Alabang River.
This big volunteer effort was part of a continuing two-year partnership between Pure Earth and HSBC Philippines.
The goal: to fight river pollution, increase awareness of the problem and public health concerns, strengthen water and fish quality monitoring, and improve responses to the issue at the local level.
The activities were conducted in collaboration with the Local Government Unit of Muntinlupa City and HSBC Corporate Sustainability Manager, Jaime Villanueva, and his team
Muntinlupa Environmental Sanitation Center Head, Ms. Lorna Misa, and Lake Management Office OIC, Ms. Rosalina Contreras, were impressed with the dedication of the volunteers, and they appreciated that the effort was “not just for show.”
Indeed the hands-on HSBC team included HSBC Philippines CEO, Mr. Wick Veloso; HSBC Philippines COO, Scott Dalziel; Head of GSC Philippines, Belinda Chen; and Head of Strategy, GSC Philippines, Mr. Richard Venables.
Pure Earth and HSBC have since conducted more river cleanups, tree plantings, and another five river quality monitoring events.
“It is meaningful for HSBC volunteers to understand the status of the rivers and the importance of activities such as river cleanups and monitoring. Their engagement showcases multi-stakeholder participation in these types of activities,” says Dr. Lorele Trinidad, Pure Earth Technical Consultant.
From clear to cloudy, green and muddy, to completely black
Volunteers have noted river water ranging from clear to cloudy, green and muddy, to completely black. The samples they collected were tested for heavy metal contamination and compared with standard Water Quality Guidelines.
Among the results were that dissolved oxygen levels at six stations were below 5 mg/L with values ranging from 0 mg/L – 2.9 mg/L, an indication that the water bodies were not healthy and were not conducive to the survival and growth of many aquatic organisms.
Fish quality monitoring
Because of the pollution in the rivers and fishponds, Pure Earth and HSBC conducted four fish quality monitoring events in public and private markets in Muntinlupa City, Quezon City, Navotas City which are all in Metro Manila, and the Municipality of Obando which is in Bulacan Province.
62 HSBC volunteers helped in fish quality monitoring. They bought fish (tilapia and milkfish) that were brought to a laboratory for testing for heavy metals.
Some volunteers also interviewed fish vendors to gather information such as the source of the fish. They also spoke with consumers to find out how frequently they consume fish and what are their considerations in buying fish from the market. A total of 33 vendors and 124 consumers were interviewed.
The success of the project is due in part to HSBC’s ingrained culture of volunteerism. HSBC is part of the local community, and many of the volunteers return to help out again and again, with some bringing their families along to learn more about the environment, health challenges, and solutions. They understand that the condition of the rivers flowing through their communities affect them all.