Protecting Water in the Philippines and Around the World

 Phillipines
 PHOTO: Vincent Venderveken

In September 2000, world leaders came together in New York to adopt the United Nations Millennium Declaration, committing their nations to a new global partnership to reduce extreme poverty and setting out a series of time-bound targets - with a deadline of 2015 - that have become known as the Millennium Development Goals.

The Declaration states: "We must spare no effort to free all of humanity, and above all our children and grandchildren, from the threat of living on a planet irredeemably spoilt by human activities, and whose resources would no longer be sufficient for their needs."

ELAW is working with partners around the world to protect vital natural resources for future generations.  An important part of this work is protecting water and holding polluters accountable.  We do this by:
 

  • Designing scientific testing and monitoring programs, to identify water pollutants and assess clean up efforts. 
  • Reviewing Environmental Impact Assessments and project proposals that might impact water, to ensure that they meet scientific and legal standards.
  • Assessing environmental data to identify the sources of pollution and potential hazards. 
  • Preparing expert scientific opinions and testimony about water quality. 
  • Providing partners with information about cleaner technologies and sustainable solutions. 
  • Strengthening policies and regulations that protect water.
  • Sharing lessons from other communities that have worked to protect water. 
  • Providing strategic support as our partners advocate for clean water.  

Cleaning up Maribojoc Bay

Cities throughout the developing world struggle to protect water resources. In Tagbilaran City, Philippines (population 100,000), the mayor authorized construction of the San Jose outfall, for storm drainage. Illegal connections to this canal dumped raw sewage and untreated industrial wastewater into Maribojoc Bay, a popular fishing and bathing spot.

Philippines
ELAW connects communities.
We replicate best
practices to protect
the environment.

In December 2008, ELAW partner Raul Barbarona, Executive Director of the Environmental Legal Assistance Center, sent ELAW staff scientists the lab results of water samples taken where the outfall meets the bay.

The E. coli bacteria in the samples were too numerous to count!

ELAW Staff Scientist Mark Chernaik compared the levels of E. coli, dissolved oxygen, and ammonia to World Health Organization and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards, and sent Raul a report concluding: "Continued discharge would pose a serious risk to public health and marine life."

Raul presented ELAW's analysis at a meeting of the Maribojoc Bay Resource Management Council, with several area mayors in attendance. The Council issued a resolution calling for the immediate construction of a wastewater treatment facility. The National Economic Development Authority is reviewing the project. Meanwhile, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has supervised the closing of illegal connections to the drain and the Bohol Provincial Government is studying additional steps to improve the situation until the wastewater treatment facility is built.

Helping Communities Participate
Poverty is more than a meager income. Poverty is a lack of basic rights. Citizens living in poverty often lack access to information, access to justice, and the right to participate in public decisions.

When citizens are included in government and participate in decisions, they can help keep corruption in check, promote good governance, and help to eradicate poverty.

ELAW works with partners around the world to empower citizens to participate in decisions that can have a profound impact on the quality of life in local communities, including decisions to transform pristine coastlines into luxury resorts, decisions to prospect for oil in national parks, and decisions about where to construct industrial facilities.

In a recent interview, India's M.C. Mehta said: "We should have a need-based policy not a greed-based policy." M.C. has worked for decades to promote responsible development that does not sacrifice the environment (see page 3). ELAW partner Diana McCaulay at the Jamaica Environment Trust faces similar challenges. "Large scale, high impact, all inclusive hotel development has taken off quickly. We advocate for a more Caribbean-style, low impact, inclusive and sustainable tourism."

ELAW's Community Legal Education Program works with grassroots attorneys around the world to educate communities, inform decision makers, and engage citizens to build a healthier future. In 2008, ELAW co-hosted community workshops in Guatemala, Belize and Honduras, to empower communities to better protect the Mesoamerican Reef. ELAW also worked with partners in the Philippines to educate communities about sustainable management of marine resources.

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Summary: 

In September 2000, world leaders came together in New York to adopt the United Nations Millennium Declaration, committing their nations to a new global partnership to reduce extreme poverty and setting out a series of time-bound targets - with a deadline of 2015 - that have become known as the Millennium Development Goals.