A cleaner, greener river runs through the Philippines

The Philippines’ capital Manila has seen one of the developing world’s highest rates of urban growth, straining water and sanitation resources, but one river community has managed to clean and green its local river, earning it a UN best practice award.

Since 2002, local government officials in southern metro Manila, have been rehabilitating the Las Pinas-Zapote river system by training “river watch” volunteers in ecological solid waste and river management. Under a re-greening process known locally as `bambusetum’, residents have planted bamboo and mangroves to prevent soil erosion, installed rubbish traps and carry out daily rubbish collection along a 56km stretch of the river.

The municipal project is backed by former presidential candidate Senator Manuel Villar, whose family is from the area and whose wife represents the district in parliament.

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"Communities play an important role in monitoring, protecting and cleaning the rivers when they have enough information, knowledge and are given rights to participate. Their participation is very valuable," said Nguy Thi Khanh, deputy director of Vietnamese NGO Centre for Water Resources Conservation and Development.

This year's World Water Day, observed annually on 22 March, is focused on cities and the challenge of keeping up with population growth and industrialization.