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‘No exposed soil’ policy mulled for Metro Manila

[ ] June 13, 2011

THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) proposed the implementation of a “no exposed soil” policy in the streets of Metro Manila to reduce the level of air pollution.

In a letter to the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Francis Tolentino, DENR Secretary Ramon Paje said that the “no exposed soil” policy would lessen dust and other suspended particles, two of the contributing pollutants in the air, coming from the streets and open bare land.

Paje said that a “no exposed soil” policy, similar to those implemented in other countries like Singapore and Hong Kong, would involve cleaning up the roads through regular sweeping.

It would also require additional environmental management practices particularly at construction sites like prohibiting the use of bagged cement and on-site mixing of concrete and mortar, as well as the use of enclosures and covers to minimize dust particles from flying.

The DENR chief said that greening or planting campaigns, including the paving of roads and other access points, would also reduce bare land where exposed soil can also be found.

The DENR aims to reduce the level of air pollution in Metro Manila by 30 percent this year from the 2009 levels.

It has since partnered with the private sector and other government agencies to implement various air pollution control programs, such as the Ligtas-Hangin campaign to rid EDSA of smoke belchers.

The agency also set stricter emission limits for all vehicles, and called for a tighter watch on erring private emission testing centers.

Such efforts have contributed to a substantial decrease in levels of total suspended particulates since December 2010, but TSP levels spiked anew in March before declining in April.

Paje attributed the spike “not to smog, but due to the dryness of the summer season which aggravates the level of dust in the air.”

Data from the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau, which monitors the country’s air quality, showed that from 133 micrograms per normal cubic meter (µg/ncM) in December 2010, the TSP levels decreased to 131µg/ncM in January 2011, and further went down to 120µg/ncM in February, before increasing by 22 percent to 140µg/ncM in March.

The World Bank estimates an annual productivity loss worth P7.6 billion due to the respiratory and cardiovascular diseased caused by the exposure of about 18 million Filipinos to air pollution.

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