Saturday, September 01, 2001

Urban blight

Hindi ako ang nagsulat sa article na ito.

Inundated streets with children frolicking about disease-laden flood waters. Traffic going to a snarl amidst noxious pollution assailing the nostrils from industrial and automotive fumes as well as from stinking uncollected garbage.

A group of teenagers enjoys a game of basketball in a depressed suburb oblivious to a cemented tank beneath the basketall court containing toxic waste irresponsibly dumped by the gian power firm, Meralco.

Meanwhile, "clean and green" has also become a byword for a pseudoenvironment-friendly city autocrat whose environmental initiatives has become a mask for anti-people programs and policies.

That, though in a limited sense, reflects the current environment of Metro Manila.

But in more comprehensively looking terms, Metro Manila is the picture of urban blight--a metropolis waiting for the next (and probably worse) ecological disaster after a stream of environmental nightmares brought about by socio-ecological conflicts of a grander scale. Almost all of major river systems in Metro Manila has already been declared biologically dead. This despite never-ending efforts to dredge and revive these rivers, foremost is the Pasig river.

And even as the government continues to spend millions in "dengue" warnings, flooding in the metropolis has become a perennial, spawning not only malaria, cholera, diarrhea and skin diseases, but also the lately discovered fatal Leptospirosis coming from rat-infested esteros and creeks.

Environmentalist cannot help but pin the sorry state of the environment to an uneven development path taken by government planners and policy makers.

From time immemorial, a centralist attitude has pervaded all government decisions prioritizing Metro Manila as the hub of economic development and urbanization.

As a result, environmental crises piled up one on top of another as government and reformist non-government organizations turned their attention to remedial and mitigating measures forgetting that in the first place environmental problems cropped up because of poorly planned and lopsided policies on national and ecological development.

Flooding, the direct result of a depleted forest cover, is bound to get more catastrophic as global warming, because of unmitigated pollution, intensifies. The tropical cyclones that increasingly and more intermittently pour into the city and the rest of the country cannot but be attributable to the wanton neglect of the environment. Neglect that for the most part happens because of an overly congested urban area where people from the provinces troop for lack of economic opportunities and means of development in the countryside.

Worse, globalization is exacerbating this situation.

With more and more of the country's rich natural and human resources coming under the control of transnational corporations, the despoliation and destruction of the environment becomes a matter of course.

As millions more Filipinos leave the countryside because virtually every corner of the earth in the provinces has become the domain of big foreign mining companies, the urban blight is bound to get more seamier.

No amount of technology, clean and green efforts, or cosmetic solutions could solve the urban ecological conflicts that are deeply rooted in a problematic social set up.

- from Feedback, September 2001


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