Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Caroline Bond makes this connection in Manila, Philippines. This current event was reported in Citiscope, on June 23, 2016, under the title, Cleaning up Manila’s Pasig River, one tributary at a time, by Anna Valmero. This is a believable news story, based on a report from 2011 that stated that Benzotriazole ultraviolet stabilizers (BUVSs), a component of many consumer products, including plastics, building materials and personal hygiene products were found in fishes collected and analyzed from Manila Bay. Manila Bay is fed by the Pasig River. To find more about the accumulation of plastic byproducts in the Manila Bay area, see “Contamination and bioaccumulation of benzotriazole ultraviolet stabilizers in fish from Manila Bay, the Philippines using an ultra-fast liquidchromatography–tandem mass spectrometry”, available online.

This is a WRE story at its core because the solution to keep the water ways clean from pollution requires engineered prevention and continued treatment of contamination. The main message of this article, is that cooperation by both the government and the community is essential for implemented solutions to work. This is important news because it is a success story. In the past year since the project was technically completed, heavy rains have flooded some parts of Manila. Noticeably however, the project has succeeded in keeping the neighborhood around Estero de Paco above water. This article failed to mention in detail the timeline of the problem from the beginning to the end. To know how long the time was between the mere annoyance of a few plastic things floating around to the findings of the bioaccumulation in the Manila bay fish, to the beginnings of restorative efforts until the end result of clear waters would be helpful in order to fully gage how effective the response was.

Figure 1. The cleanup of Manila's Estero de Paco pictured above has become a model for other rehabilitative efforts around other rivers in Manila like the Pasig River.

Figure 1. The cleanup of Manila’s Estero de Paco pictured above has become a model for other rehabilitative efforts around other rivers in Manila like the Pasig River.

Manila is a coastal city, constantly subjected to flooding, when waterways are clogged with garbage to the extent seen in (Figure 1) they lose their ability to drain efficiently. Even moderate rains can quickly overwhelm the river causing flooding to wash up loads of garbage in some cases the same garbage residents tried to dispose of (in the stream) hours earlier. According to Takeuchi (2002) flooding is the most deadly natural disaster, responsible for claiming 40 million more lives just between 1993 and 1997 than drought, winds, landslides, and volcanic eruptions combined. The wastes in standing water have many negative health impacts as they can host mosquitoes and bacterial diseases like leptospirosis which out broke in 2009 after Typhoon Ketsana left Manila submerged for weeks. However the ultimate environmental goal was to stem the flow of waste into Manila Bay where it was being ingested by, and absorbed by, and disrupting the sea life causing still unknown health impacts along food chains. Floods are an economic issue because it disrupts local economies and causes a lot of damage repeatedly. Economically it was struggle for Manila with a highly impoverished community to get behind this project off the ground including a new sewer system however I believe that the benefits will soon outweigh the costs. The constructed wetlands serve a dual purpose as they protect against flooding and create green space which has helped build community, lower the frequency of crime, and bring back tourism to the area as the foul odor that once lingered has mostly left the area. It has also been noted that as a whole inhabitants of manila, are not suffering from illnesses and asthma attacks as much as before. This is a hidden economic benefit as families are now saving money on health related costs.

Reference: Takeuchi, K. (2002, January ). Retrieved January 29, 2017, from Research Gate, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228558237_Keynote_lecture_Floods_and_society_a_never-ending_evolutional_relation