BEING A NATIVE OF DUMAGUETE, I HAVE SEEN HOW THIS CITY HAS BECOME MORE URBANIZED OVER THE YEARS. IT HAS DEVELOPED AND GIVEN A LOT OF JOB OPPORTUNITIES TO UNEMPLOYED PEOPLE MORE THAN BEFORE. SHOPPING MALLS AND OTHER ESTABLISHMENTS HAVE ALSO BEEN BUILT TO OFFER CONVENIENCE AMONG THE RESIDENCE AND TRAVEL-GOERS. BUT, WITH ALL THESE DEVELOPMENTS, WE HAVE FORGOTTEN TO TAKE INTO CONSIDERATION OTHER PEOPLE AND THE ENVIRONMENT.
It was four in the afternoon in an ordinary day when I passed by our neighborhood. I observed how households wanted to completely get rid of their waste, so they incinerate their waste. Incineration is the defined as the act of getting rid of wastes by burning them. In the layman’s term, it is called the “daob.”
I saw how my mother would complain because the smoke even spread inside our house and we had to close our windows and doors, so not to inhale the awful smell. There were instances that I had difficulty breathing because of too much smoke. How does incineration affect our health? Or more importantly, is it an effective way to get rid of wastes?
According to Alternative Energy (AE) News, “the incineration process produces two types of ash—bottom and fly ash. Bottom ash comes from the furnace and is mixed with slag, while fly ash comes from the stack and contains components that are more hazardous. In municipal waste incinerators, bottom ash is approximately 10% by volume and approximately 20 to 35% by weight of the solid waste input. Fly ash quantities are much lower, generally only a
few percent of input. Emissions from incinerators can include heavy metals, dioxins and furans, which may be present in the waste gases, water or ash.”
In various stages of such thermal technologies, toxics are produced. These can be created during the process, in the stack pipes, as residues in ash, scrubber water and filters, and in fact even in air plumes which leave the stack. With this information, there’s no safe way to avoid their production or to destroy them—it is unavoidable. If trapped in ash or filters, these become hazardous wastes themselves.
They are also major releasers of cancer-causing dioxins and furans. In areas near incineration, study shows that the risk of dying from cancer is higher in those places. These communities are highly vulnerable.
Good thing our former Silliman University President, Dr. Angel Alcala, banned incineration inside the campus. I can breathe fresh air without worrying about the awful smell and the health risks from smoke. I spend most of my time in the campus, so I find it relieving.
I just hope that one day, Dumaguete will have strict implementation of Republic Act (RA) 8749 or the “Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999.”
(Esther is a pioneering member of Association of Young Environmental Journalists.)