Philippines: Human and Ecosystem Health in MMORS
Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited (HSBC)
The Marilao-Meycauayan-Obando (MMO) river system, one of the worst polluted water bodies in the world, feeds directly into Manila Bay.
The project tested, developed and showcased remediation technology systems to reduce contamination to the fishponds, as well as created a network infrastructure including Information, Education, and Communication strategies, policy interventions to spread the technology through the entire sector. Ultimately, the project enabled the local regulatory agencies to protect consumers while they work on stopping the pollution in river.
The project Protecting Livelihood, Human, and Ecosystem Health in the Philippines aimed to reduce human health risks posed by toxic pollution in the Meycauayan-Marilao-Obando River System (MMORS), which is home to an extensive aquaculture industry. MMORS is one of the heavily contaminated river systems in the country. It is a catch basin of untreated household, commercial and industrial wastes, and a waterway that hosts thousands of hectares of aquaculture ponds and eventually discharges directly to Manila Bay. For many residents in the area, the aquaculture industry generates employment and brings food to the table.
The project, managed by Blacksmith Institute Philippines, Inc., was approved by the HongKong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited (HSBC) in January 2013. This initiative was under the HSBC Water Programme, a five-year program launched in 2012 and supported in the Philippines through the HSBC Global Banking and Markets Service Centers.
The project covered the pilot testing, evaluation and promotion of remediation technologies and fishpond management systems that will address contamination from the river water. These were supported by the four major project components:
- Fishpond and River Quality Monitoring: This includes the conduct of baseline research on fishpond management and the creation of a river quality monitoring (RQM) structure that would systematize and encourage community participation in the conduct of the activity.
- Pilot Remediation: The project will pilot test various remediation technologies that will address heavy metal contamination in fishpond water. It aims to identify cost-effective technologies and determine best practices in fishpond operation and management in the area.
- Capacity Building, Policy and Organizational Development: This project involves building the capacity of local organizations, regulatory agencies and stakeholder groups (specifically of local Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (FARM-C) or local people’s organizations (POs) and MMO WQMA Board) in monitoring and replicating best practices in fishpond management, and pollution abatement and management.
This component also includes the HSBC employee engagement program, which was anchored on four core, mutually reinforcing and interdependent components: a) Human health (water quality and sanitation improvement); b) Safe and sustained livelihoods for coastal communities; c) Building local Capacities toward eco-stewardship and eco-governance; d) and community Partnerships toward Sustainable human ecosystems; it is thus dubbed HSBS PartnerS. HSBC employees were volunteers, facilitators, monitors, and advocates and were involved in various initiatives under the program, such as river quality monitoring, 3D relief mapping, community and school fora, and the yearly water summit.
- Community Education and IEC: This component addressed the knowledge, attitudes and practices/behavior of key stakeholders involved in the project, while making the best use of communication to enhance the impacts of other project components. Community education activities and IEC materials hoped to increase stakeholder awareness on pollution in the river, the pathway of pollution to the population, and interventions that could be done to address the problem; and increase stakeholder participation in interventions to clean up the river.
Dry season piloting of remediation technologies was underway, utilizing local fish ponds. Potential remediation techniques for fish farmers include Phytoremediation, Biomin/probiotics, and filtration.