Gov’t readies anti-pollution computer modeling for Manila Bay

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The national government is tapping technology to address the worsening pollution problem in historic Manila Bay.

Noel Gaerlan, executive director of the Manila Bay Coordinating Office (MBCO), said the agency has engaged the services of University of the Philippines to develop a computer-based model which can identify the intensity of emissions flowing into the bay.

Photo credit: www.nomad4ever.com
Photo credit: www.nomad4ever.com

The model can also identify dispersion patterns of the bay’s pollutants, Gerlan said. “Such data will help us better pinpoint interventions needed for effectively addressing pollution in the bay,” he said.

Manila Bay is a semi-enclosed estuary facing the West Philippine Sea and is considered as one of the world’s best natural harbors.

With a coastline of about 190 kilometers and a surface area of some 1,800 square kilometers, Manila Bay borders coastal areas of the National Capital Region as well as Bataan, Pampanga and Bulacan provinces in Region III and Cavite province in Region IV.

Authorities noted that aside from having historical, recreational and natural values, the Manila Bay area has economic importance. The three regions bordering Manila Bay collectively account for around 55 percent of the country?s GDP (gross domestic product) due to agriculture, fisheries, manufacturing and other economic activities there, they said.

But pollution, over-exploitation of resources, habitat degradation, conflicting uses have destroyed the picturesque bay. Siltation and sedimentation have also jeopardized the bay?s capability to function as an economic driver.

In 2008, Supreme Court ordered the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and other agencies to clean up Manila Bay and said the “abject official indifference of people and institutions” transformed the bay into a “dirty and slowly dying expanse.”

Gaerlan said development of the computer model is among the environment department’s initiatives for complying with the court order. He said is eyeing to launch the IT project next month.

“The model will help us do simulation and forecast the likely scenario if pollution in the bay either increases or decreases,” Gaerlan said.

He said inputs from the model will also help government prepare the master plan for Manila Bay in order that rehabilitation, management and development activities can be mapped out accordingly. “We want to make that master plan as accurate as possible,” he said.

Gaerlan said dissolved oxygen (DO) and biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) are the parameters initially included in developing the model. “Both indicate state of pollution in Manila Bay,” he noted.

Experts said DO is a measure of how much oxygen is dissolved in water. Oxygen dissolved in water is crucial for organisms and creatures as they can?t survive if water quality is compromised when the amount of DO drops below normal levels.

Gaerlan said the computer model’s outputs will be critical in identifying water clean-up strategies for Manila Bay since latest available data show the domestic sector already accounts for some 80 percent of pollution there.

The domestic sector includes informal settlements and is difficult to monitor, he noted. He observed not all households have proper toilet facilities so a number of them directly dispose human waste into water bodies.

Some 20 percent of Manila Bay’s pollution is from industries, Gaerlan continued. Outputs of the model can help develop programs that will enable industries to better comply with government’s water quality requirements, he added. — Catherine J. Teves, PNA

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