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RENEW training bares environmental problems of urban poor communities

Che Dominguez and Lisa Ito

Pollution-triggered diseases, flooding, lack of viable housing projects, and unsafe and unsanitary relocation areas remain as major environment-related concerns among the Philippine urban poor sector, revealed a recent Restoration Ecology Workshop (RENEW) training by the Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines.

RENEW is CEC's basic environmental education course. This RENEW training was co-organized with the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay), a national federation of urban poor organizations. It was held last November 13 to 14, at the Bahay Daluyan of St. Theresa’s College in Quezon City.

The RENEW workshop gathered 21 participants, mostly community and youth leaders from urban poor communities in Quezon City, Caloocan City and Montalban, and Kadamay national staff members.

Through the course workshops, participants shared the environmental situation of urban poor communities, stressing the persistence of the following realities:

  • Problems related to housing woes: Some relocation areas, such as Montalban, are located in geohazard sites, deforested and landslide-prone areas, or near large dam projects vulnerable to flooding. Housing projects are already congested and face problems related to sanitation, spread of pests such as rats, mosquitoes, and fleas as well as lack of access to medicinal plants.
  • Flooding of urban poor communities due to rivers, creeks and waterways clogged with waste.
  • Disaster unpreparedness: Urban poor communities are vulnerable to disasters related to the impacts of floods, landslides, earthquakes, fires, heat waves, and lack of water services. There is a lack of a comprehensive and effective flood control program and disaster preparedness programs.
  • Lack of basic social services: These include services related to health, sanitation, water, and waste collection and segregation services. Implementation of public projects, such as sewerage systems, is inefficient and defective. Social services are scarce and often commercialized.
  • Food insecurity: Food has to be purchased commercially due to lack of areas to grow or forage for food.
  • Impacts of land use conversion: Agricultural areas are increasingly being converted into relocation sites or other non-agricultural uses, displacing already landless peasants and increasing the rural poor diaspora into urban centers.
  • Culture of commercialization: Consumption of non-essential goods is encouraged and also contributes to the increase of domestic and plastic waste.
  • Diseases arising from exposure to pollution: Including air, water, and noise pollution. There is widespread incidence of communicable and infectious diseases (such as dengue) due to urban congestion, flooding, and lack of sanitation services. Some areas are also concerned about the impacts of improper infectious waste disposal of hospitals.
  • Lack of occupational safety: Employment is rare and often comes in the form of dirty and dangerous jobs.
  • Lack of educational opportunities
  • Constant threat of demolitions