Wednesday, June 28, 2006

EDITORIAL — The wages of filth

The Philippine Star

There is a price to pay for filth, and it’s not cheap. The World Bank, in a study on sanitation and sewerage in the Philippines, reported that the country spends approximately P3.3 billion in health costs each year for illnesses attributed to contaminated water. Almost every day 2,000 cases of diarrhea are recorded nationwide, with 25 deaths. Fish yields have also dropped over the years due to water pollution, with annual losses placed at P17 billion. The country’s overall economic losses due to poor sanitation and sewerage are estimated at a whopping $1.3 billion a year, according to the World Bank.

The WB estimates that the country needs P211.21 billion over 10 years to address the problem. That’s a lot of money for the cash-strapped government, but the country will have to start investing in sanitation and sewerage facilities. The World Bank study showed that among 18 Asian urban centers, Metro Manila is the third worst in terms of access to sewerage. The situation is worse outside Metro Manila, where access to sewerage networks was found to be non-existent in many areas.

The figures aren’t surprising, considering that in the 21st century, water supply concessionaires still cannot provide full coverage even in Metro Manila. The water supply situation is worse outside the capital, where many areas rely on communal artesian wells for all their water needs. Lacking safe water, sanitation and sewerage facilities, outbreaks of diseases including cholera are becoming common even in urban centers.

The problem can only worsen as the population continues to grow while resources dwindle. Experts are projecting a water crisis in the near future, with developing countries to be hit hardest. The Philippines is familiar with the problem and must move quickly to prevent the situation from getting worse.

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