Save the People, Save the Balili River

The river once flowed happily with its clear waters kissing the rocks. The people sat along the banks of the river as they enjoyed the scenery of the flowing bodies of water.

No more.

The river that was once a place for people to take a bath and drink freshwater is now barely a place where people should be near at. Garbage have dominated the bodies of water deteriorating its ecological system.

According to Mang Griego, not his real name, one of his childhood memories was that he and his friends would go to the banks of the Balili river and take a bath in the waters because it was very clean and clear at that time. It was during his time, about 30 years ago, when the said river was still healthy and pure.

The Balili River is located in the province of Benguet with a length of 23.81 kilometers. From the city of Baguio, it flows northward, entering the municipality of La Trinidad.

Tracing the causes of the dead river

The number one cause of the current situation of the Balili River is pollution. The excessive dumping of solid and liquid wastes has killed the natural system of the river.

The dumping of organic materials promoted bacteria to grow and multiply exponentially wherein the microorganisms use up oxygen resulting to the death of plants and animals in the waters.

As a result, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has declared the river as biologically dead due to the absence of the life of animals and plants apart from the living microorganisms that worsens the condition of the river.

Others also claim that urbanization and human activities have triggered the deterioration of the Balili river.

In 1975, the Balili River was classified under class A, a high class river meaning it can be tapped to supply drinking water after some treatment procedures, as the DENR explains.

However, after decades, the river gradually lowered its class reaching the lowest possible class of a river which is Class D.

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IT IS NOT YET THE END. Pollution and other human activities have caused the Balili River to degrade its class until class D, the lowest possible class of a river. However, there is still hope for revitalization of the river that served the lives of the community members of La Trinidad, Benguet.

In an article published in the Baguio chronicle, it states that the DENR’s Pollution Control Division a few years ago has classified the Balili River as class D, meaning that the water is highly polluted and dead.

It also means that the water is barely safe enough to irrigate vegetable farms and for human contact such as washing or bathing.

Is it too late for revitalization?

The answer is no. It is not yet too late and there is still hope. This is according to the report of Manila Bulletin, wherein Susan Nool, a spokesperson of DENR described that the river is gradually improving, however it is not yet passing the Water Quality Management Area.

Since the throwing of solid and liquid wastes is the main reason of the pollution of the river, several processes can be done to help gradually improve the condition of the river.

Romeo A. Gomez Jr., Professor VI of the Department of Biology in Benguet State University, said that there are plenty of things that people can do themselves to manage their own wastes.

He stated that members of the community can simply practice the three Rs of proper waste management which is reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Furthermore, he mentioned about the Social Environmental Management System, wherein there should be a system of checks and balances within the government, firms, and citizens.

The Local Government Unit (LGU) should be stricter with the implementation of ordinances related to solid and liquid wastes by imposing definite penalties of whoever does not abide with the rules.

Barangay Balili officials said that community effort must be present to help revitalize the Balili River. However, the community must be oriented regarding the major issue to enforce discipline among the members.

Linda Solano, a resident of Barangay Balili, urges everyone to help save the river because it is their life. “Daytoy karayan ket biyag tayo. Sapay kuma ta makipartisipar ti amin ta daytoy na lang ti namnama tayo.” (This river is our life. Hopefully everyone will participate because this is our only hope.)//Ma. Amica G. Mañalac

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