‘CLOSE DUMPSITE OR FACE RISKS’

The open dumpsite of Mandaue City in barangay Umapad needs to be completely shut down as it is a “calamity waiting to happen.”
This was the warning issued yesterday by environmental lawyer Benjamin Cabrido, the city’s consultant on waste management, as the dumpsite continues to emit health hazardous smoke days since a fire raged on the dumpsite on Dec. 24.
Cabrido told CEBU DAILY NEWS that if not enough budget would be appropriated by the city government to properly close the dumpsite, there would be no telling what kind of health risks it could cause to residents near the area or those likely to be affected by its foul-smelling smoke and the leachate, the contaminated liquid that drains from a landfill, that could affect the water of Mactan Channel.
Because of the amount of methane gas present inside the 9.2-hectare dumpsite, there is a possibility that another fire can flare again even if the previous fire had been doused, said Cabrido, a member of the Global Legal Action Climate Change (GLACC), a group of lawyers advocating programs against climate change.
Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes said that had the City Council approve the full budget for the closure plan of the dumpsite, no such calamity would happen.
The Mandaue City Development Council (CDC) had proposed a P33-million budget for the conversion of the dumpsite into an ecological park but the city legislators only approved P20 million last week, which did not include the budget for the closure plan.
The closure plan would have included covering the entire dumpsite with soil, the installation of vents for the release of methane gas and the installation of baseliners which will prevent the leachate from going to the Mactan Channel, among others.
The Umapad dumpsite is on the left side of the Marcelo Fernan Bridge. One side of the dumpsite faces the Mactan Channel which is the east side of the dumpsite.
When standing at the entrance facing the Mactan channel, the bridge is on the right side. Shanties are located at the west side of the dumpsite and the north side. There are, however, dried ponds separating some areas on the Mactan Channel and the west side.
When facing the dumpsite from the entrance which is parallel to the second bridge, shanties are situated on the west.
Most of the dumpsite was closed on June 5 but there was an area where garbage, segregated by and collected from the city’s barangays, were still being dumped.
“Kini resulta na ni kay daghan na kaayo og methane gas. Kung ila palang gyud gi-approve ang budget, dili ni mahitabo. Karun nakita na nato ang damage. Kung ato pa ni naaksyonan, dayon dili ta maabot nga in ani. Mosilaab napud ni kung wala tay measures nga buhaton. Dili gyud ni kapugngan (This happened because there was too much methane gas. If they [city councilors] approved the budget, this would not have happened. Now we see the damage. If we had taken action, this would not happen. The fire broke out because we did not take measures to prevent it. The fire cannot be stopped),” Cortes said.
But Mandaue City Vice Mayor Carlo Fortuna said the budget for the installation of the gas vents, baseliners and others safety measures mentioned by Cortes was already released.
He said the council has also approved another outlay of P4 million for the top soil, stones and limestone that are needed to avert leachate.
“That landfill was supposed to be closed. Contrary to their claims, we have to find out what caused the fire and whether there are still activities in the dumpsite that might have caused the ignition of the fire because if it is closed, it should be clear of inhabitants; scavengers should be prevented to enter. The combustion should not (have caught) the administration by surprise,” Fortuna told CEBU DAILY NEWS yesterday.
Cortes went to the dumpsite on Sunday morning accompanied by Mandaue City Administrator Briccio Boholst and Cabrido to check on the status of the fire.
Although there was no visible sign of fire, the thick smug-like smoke which hovers on the entire dumpsite is also a risk to the environment and to the health of the residents living nearby, Cabrido said.
Based on health hazards listed for such open dumpsites that had raging fires such as the Inawayan dumpsite in Cebu City, the smoke could cause respiratory problems such as cough, cold and could trigger asthma attacks.
Fortuna, however, said that relocation for the residents nearby should be the last option because the smoke is only “temporary,” unless it will take the city’s executive department a long time to quench the fire and stop the smoke.
He also explained that the wind usually blows towards the Mactan Channel so there was no immediate risk for the health of the residents.
Cabrido, however, believed the city government should not wait until something disastrous happens before it would finally shut down the dumpsite.
“Kini tanan kinahanglan ug budget. This is a calamity waiting to happen. As early as June 5 we have warned Mandaue that this is a calamity waiting to happen; look at Inayawan (landfill),” he said.
He said that as of now, the conventional way to put off the fire at the dumpsite could still be done but it could not prevent the possibility of a recurring fire in the landfill.
As of Sunday, fire trucks have been pouring water on the affected one-hectare portion of the dumpsite to cool it down and stop the emission of smoke.
Cabrido proposed that the city rents additional equipment to create an access road or a fire block to prevent the spread of fire.
Cortes asked the members of the city council to visit the area so they could see the extent of the damage brought about by the delay of the approval of the budget for the closure plan.
“Nag ampo ko nga ang kini ato kauban sa konseho dapat objective ang ila panlantaw. Kini para nako alarming nakaayo ang status sa ato dumpsite. If wala tay pondo, mag unsa man? Ug dili ko nila buligan, dili ta muguwa nga malamposon. Kini na causa dili ni para nako para ni nato tanan. (We only pray that our colleagues in the City Council will look at this objectively. For me, the status of the dumpsite is already alarming. If we have no budget, what can we do? If they will not help me, we cannot succeed. This is not just my cause but of everyone.) Hopefully [our City Council] will stand up and be counted as one in nation building,” Cortes said.
He also said the amount that the City Development Council (CDC) proposed to effectively shut down the dumpsite did not come from nowhere as it was patterned from a feasibility study used by the San Carlos City for their sanitary landfill.
Today, the City Disaster Coordinating Council (CDCC) will convene so that they could discuss the possibility of recommending the declaration of the Umapad dumpsite as a calamity area, the mayor said.
The CDCC previously recommended to declare the dumpsite in a state of calamity but the City Council did not approve it.
Cortes said the CDCC is expected to restate the same recommendation in today’s meeting
(Cebu Daily News)

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