The Link Between Sanitation and Biodiversity
The Philippines is one of the most biologically rich countries in the world, and Philippine coastal waters host tremendous diversity in marine life in extensive coral reefs, sea-grass beds, and dense mangrove forests. Yet these biodiversity resources are increasingly threatened by rapid population growth and loose enforcement of environmental and health laws and regulations. Urbanization has been acknowledged as a root cause of biodiversity loss worldwide, and the Philippines is no exception. Water pollution is significantly degrading the quality of the rivers, lakes, groundwater and coastal waters that are critical to the survival of marine and other species dependent on clean water.
A major contributor to water pollution is domestic waste caused by inadequate sanitation and sewerage management. Untreated sewage and septic tank effluent is carried via rivers and streams into the sea, or seeps into groundwater from open-bottom septic tanks and pit latrines, and then flows into the sea through sand and limestone. This pollutes the coastal waters, impacting the species living there and reducing the biodiversity.
A Threats-based Approach to Biodiversity
The Philippine Sanitation Alliance (PSA) addresses threats to biodiversity in designated coastal Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs), or internationally recognized sites of biodiversity conservation significance. The project also supports the implementation of the Clean Water Act of 2004, which was created, “to formulate a holistic national program of water quality management that recognizes that water quality management issues cannot be separated from concerns about water sources and ecological protection, water supply, public health and quality of life.”
PSA activities aim to reduce the threats to biodiversity through the following three actions:
1. Assisting private sector partners to build wastewater treatment facilities to reduce the amount of pollution entering water bodies that flow into KBAs;
2. Enabling cities to develop city-wide action plans with short, medium and long term actions that, once fully implemented, will significantly reduce the amount of pollution entering water bodies that flow into KBAs; and
3. Scaling up both private and public pilots to a nationwide scale through national associations to have a larger impact on biodiversity and health throughout the country.