Could the Philippine transformation happen in Mahim, Mumbai?

forum future logoA short article in Green Futures, published by Forum for the Future, with a spectacular double page spread photograph, prompted a web search.

biomatrix manila before

The website of Habitat International Coalition, which has been active in the area, relates that Paco Market, on the edge of the Estero de Paco, was once a bustling centre of commerce. Local fisherman took their day’s catch directly from the ocean down the Pasig River to Estero de Paco, one of its largest tributaries. After WWII, the Pasig River began to become polluted and the Paco Market was neglected for years; the market vendors threw all their garbage and waste into the river and squatters moved in, building directly on the banks of the sewers, impeding the flow and ‘further deteriorating the water quality’.

bio manila treatment tanksWithin a year, the Paco market and Estero de Paco have been transformed into a world-class market and a clean tributary. The garbage was removed by the River Warriors – volunteers living beside the waterways -who cleaned the water with small nets and ensured that no more garbage is thrown into the river. The shores now have vetiver grass growing to prevent erosion and coir has been mixed with a helpful bacteria to decompose garbage and treat the waste water and sludge. Air is being pumped in so that the water can sustain life and fish can return.

Read more here.

As the train moves over the causeway to Mumbai’s Mahim Junction passengers can see a similar problem.

bio mahim

Below: a settlement near Mahim Junction

bio mahim settlement near junction

But see the potential: a little further on towards the city

bio mahim towards city

Across the world, urban waterways are dying as rural-urban migration leads to cities growing faster than the infrastructure can cope.

Developed nations are not immune to this. While the River Thames is much cleaner than it was, according to Thames Water, on average, 39m tonnes of untreated sewage overflows into the river each year when London’s Victorian sewers become overloaded.

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