Country Water Actions

Country water actions are stories that showcase water reforms undertaken by individuals, communities, organizations, and governments in Asia-Pacific countries and elsewhere.

Philippines: River Waste Goes Up in Smoke and Helps Poor Fisherfolk in the Process
November 2004


FUEL FROM SCRAP Large volumes of waste materials which otherwise are discarded and left to rot are collected from rivers and streams to undergo a carbonizing process until they are converted into charcoal briquettes. Abandoned bio-mass such as coconut wastes and water hyacinth are processed into useful energy-giving charcoal briquettes, offering a better alternative to environmentally-harmful methods of charcoalmaking such as burning and cutting of trees. "The project offers these host of environmental benefits and provides livelihood opportunities for marginalized sectors," says Jose K. Carino III, project proponent and community development division chief of the Laguna Lake Development Authority based in Calauan, Laguna, which formed the 300-strong Laguna de Bay Environmental Army Foundation, Inc. to implement the project. The Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau is the primary partner-organization of the project. The project also helps minimize carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere since converting abandoned bio-mass into useful energy-giving charcoal briquettes results in the conservation of dwindling forest areas. It is estimated that for every ton of charcoal briquettes produced, at least 75 trees are saved; and for every 1.3 hectares of water hyacinth removed from the lake, 0.14 hectares of forest plantations are saved. There are 21 river systems that flow into the Laguna Lake, one of Southeast Asia's largest inland bodies of water. The proliferation of water hyacinth coupled with the indiscriminate dumping of garbage into the waterways has choked the lakeshore areas and the river systems that flow into the lake. Laguna de Bay is being eyed as a potential source of water supply for Metro Manila. The projects contributes to the clean-up of the lake by offering a sustainable waste recovery system while offering alternative livelihood opportunities for the poor fisherfolk around the basin who depend on the lake for a living.

An environmental army in Calauan, Laguna has taken the matter of cleaning up the Laguna Lake Basin into their own hands and making money out of it in the process. The concept of the project "River Ecosystem Revival and Enhancement through the Utilization of Recovered Materials for Energy, Carbon Mitigation and Poverty Alleviation" is to make charcoal briquettes and environment-friendly organic fertilizer out of waste while cleaning up the river. It provides livelihood to poor fisherfolk and creates opportunities for small business enterprises around the Laguna de Bay region in the provinces of Rizal and Laguna and in Metro Manila. The project was funded by the Asian Development Bank and was adjudged winner in last year's Panibagong Paraan: the first Development Marketplace in the Philippines, facilitated by the World Bank with international development partners, government, civil society and the private sector. With the theme, "Making Services Work for the Poor," Panibagong Paraan provided about P1-million funding to most of the winning innovative projects that addressed the theme.

FROM RIVER TRASH TO EASY CASH The Environmental Army is convened at least once a month to haul out waste from the various rivers in the Basin. Once the bio-degradable river waste is collected, these are fed into the drum kilns until they are carbonized and later pulverized. The carbon particles are then mixed with a binder and then pressed into their final shape and form. These are then dried, packed and sold for P15/pack of 25 pieces. The briquette-shaped charcoal is more solid and slower to burn than the flakeshaped charcoal being sold commercially. Mr. Carino sees good prospects for the project and some potential investors have in fact visited them to see the process. One of these potential investors has China as the target market where there is a high demand for heat-giving materials like charcoal. He is optimistic that given additional funding, the process of converting beneficial charcoal briquettes from abandoned biodegradable wastes can be further improved and mechanized. Read Philippines Addressing Freshwater Conflicts: The LLDA Experience in Laguna de Bay

_______________________________ This article appeared in the 2 September 2005 issue of Business World. *This article was first published online at ADB's Water for All website in September 2005: The Country Water Action series was developed to showcase reforms and good practices in the water sector undertaken by ADB’s member countries. It offers a mix of experience and insights from projects funded by ADB and those undertaken directly by civil society, local governments, the private sector, media, and the academe. The Country Water Actions are regularly featured in ADB’s Water for All News, which covers water sector developments in the Asia and Pacific region.

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