Thursday, March 25, 2010

Earth Hour: Saturday, 8:30 p.m.


Here’s the good news about us: Last year, the Philippines ranked first worldwide in terms of total number of cities and towns that participated in Earth Hour. This year, we can outdo ourselves by getting 15 million Filipinos in 1,000 cities and towns all over the country to participate in Earth Hour 2010.
Let’s switch off our lights at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 27, and convey the message that each of us can make a difference in reversing climate change. For one hour let us revel in the semi-darkness and bask in the sheen of the quarter moon. The Inquirer is part of this hour-of-darkness campaign.
You can win prizes by documenting your Earth Hour participation using your mobile phone or digital camera. Read the rules at

Last Monday was World Water Day. It passed without much of a splash because of the election campaign frenzy. We thought more cool “watery” activities could have been held in towns and cities to find solutions and raise consciousness about the world’s dwindling safe water supply even in the face of killer floods and destructive rampaging waters from balding mountains.

But Greenpeace and EcoWaste Coalition did make a splash by releasing a partial result of the Green Electoral Initiative (GEI) survey on the presidential candidates’ positions on the environment. Overall results will be presented on Earth Day in April.

Environmentalist Nicanor Perlas got the “greenest” mark with 8.7 points, while independent candidate Sen. Jamby Madrigal landed second with 7.8 points, and Bagumbayan Sen. Richard Gordon took third place with 7.2 points. The trio were given the highest marks for their “clear, comprehensive and progressive positions and plans on protecting the country’s water resources.”

Bangon Pilipinas’ Eddie Villanueva scored 4.8 points, Liberal Party’s Sen. Benigno Aquino III and Nacionalista Party’s Sen. Manuel Villar both got 3.6 points, and Ang Kapatiran bet Councilor JC de los Reyes 2.7 points. Former President Joseph Estrada of Partido ng Masang Pilipino and former Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro of Lakas-Kampi-CMD got zero points for not responding to the survey.

On the issue of water, the candidates were asked two questions: (1) If elected president, what specific steps will you take to ensure the availability of clean water sources in the country? (2) Are you for or against amending the Clean Water Act to incorporate and institutionalize a framework of zero discharge of hazardous chemicals from factories and domestic sources?

The top three’s answers to question 1 were quoted in the Inquirer’s news report last Tuesday. For question 2, all six said they were for amending the Clean Water Act.

I thought Gordon’s answer to question 2 was the best: “I have always been an advocate of personal responsibility. If you make a mess, you clean it up. Don’t fix the blame, fix the problem. This personal view on life applies across the board, and in a very literal sense to the problem of pollution. Any producer of waste must be fully accountable and liable for it and its effects. I would allow different enterprises to find different ways of dealing with their waste—they can invest in treatment facilities individually or collectively, for instance—but the bottom line must be that every enterprise must clean up after itself.”

New York-based think tank Global Source, in their latest paper on the impact of El Niño in the Philippines, said that recent studies show that unless active steps are taken to protect and conserve the Philippines’ freshwater sources, the amount of freshwater available for each person by 2025 will decrease dramatically by 65 percent of the current per capita availability.

The international observance of World Water Day grew out of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development Rio de Janeiro. Since 1993, a yearly theme was adopted. This year it is “Clean Water for a Healthy World.” The period from 2005 to 2015 has been designated “Water for Life Decade” and the campaign goes parallel with the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which has 2015 as the target date.

According to the World Health Organization, every year more than one billion human beings resort to using potentially harmful sources of water. This perpetuates a silent humanitarian crisis that kills some 3,900 children every day and thwarts progress towards achieving the MDGs.

WHO further reports that 4 of every 10 people in the world do not have access to even a simple pit latrine and nearly 2 in 10 have no source of safe drinking water. To help end this appalling state of affairs, the MDGs include a specific target (number 10) to cut in half, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. In addition, the UN Millennium Project Task Force on Water and Sanitation recently recognized that integrated development and management of water resources are crucial to the success or failure of all the MDGs, as water is central to the livelihood systems of the poor.

According to clean water advocates, 1,500 cubic kilometers of wastewater are produced globally. While this could be reused productively for energy and irrigation, in most cases it is not. In developing countries 80 percent of all waste is simply discharged untreated, because of lack of regulations and resources. In the meantime, population and industrial growth increase pollution and the demand for clean water. As a result, human and environmental health, drinking and agricultural water supplies for the present and future are compromised. A grim scenario indeed.