Tree park to rise in Cagayan de Oro’s old landfill

Alyssa Michelle R Viado

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Tree park to rise in Cagayan de Oro’s old landfill
Cagayan de Oro residents commend the construction of the tree park, which is expected to bolster a greener city

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines — Local government officials saw a solution and an opportunity to the long-standing stinking problem in Cagayan de Oro City’s Zayas open landfill: Transform it into a tree park.

As part of the second phase of the rehabilitation project of the local government and environmental agencies, the tree-planting activities transpired on April 15 with the help of volunteers from different sectors.

For the second part, around two thousand seedlings — a variety of teakwood, acacia, narra and golden shower trees — were transplanted in over 5 hectares of land in the Zayas dumpsite, located at Upper Dagong in Barangay Carmen. The first round was held in October 2015, where over a thousand seedlings were sowed.

Besides planting, the second phase includes soil filling, piping, construction of a road network and drainage system, and social engineering.

The drainage system intends to draw off garbage leachate, the toxic liquid that has dissolved from the landfill, and is formed during the decomposition of carbonaceous materials producing methane, carbon dioxide and a complex mixture of organic acids, among others.

Promising development

In a report on, the dumpsite’s rehabilitation project is pegged at P98 million ($2.1 million), according to City Social Waste and Management Board (CSWMB) Coordinator Elvisa Mabelin, adding that government officials are conducting an inspection of a sanitary landfill replacement.

Some citizens commended the construction of a tree park, which will bolster a greener CDO and will mitigate the stench that stretches as far as Upper Balulang, the uptown portion of the city.

“I’m reminded of that dumpsite in Manila that was developed into a subdivision,” remarked Cielo Miller, a resident of Upper Carmen in CDO, adding that she sees it as a promising development to the overdue issue of poor sanitation in the area.

The city’s current dumpsite, covering 17 hectares in total area, was designed to hold 1.8 million cubic meters of garbage. But as the number of households increased over the years, the dumpsite now holds twice that amount — at least 4 million cubic meters.

“If the dumpsite will be relocated to another secluded area, will the existing (Zayas) community have an opportunity to have jobs? Or will the LGU relocate them as well? Although it is very unlikely,” expressed Eric Janubas, a university instructor.

The Zayas dumpsite poses threats not just to the residents of nearby villages but also to the approximately 2,000 scavengers and garbage workers making a living in the landfill itself.

“If these two things are met, then I would very much appreciate the tree park to be pushed through,” Janubas added.

The news of the tree park construction was well-received by the netizens when it sparked on social networking sites, reaching more than 4,660 hits (as of this writing), drawing mixed reactions.

Risks and stigma

The city government is set to train the residents from the scavenging community to operate the new Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), designed to receive, sort, process and store compost and recyclable materials.

Other forms of livelihood will also be provided to the scavengers and members of Mangaykayay Association in the area.

Besides the sanitary risks and cultural stigma, the rehabilitation and closure project of the present CDO dumpsite has been facing problems that are political in nature.

Lawyer Beda Joy Elot, CSWMB vice chairman, earlier said that they started the work for the second phase despite the absence of funds since the city council disapproved the budget allotted for the project.

Looking toward a long-term solution, the city government is currently studying the environmental and social impact of the new landfill site located at Sitio Pamalihi in Barangay Pagatpat.

In February 2016, school administrators at the Pueblo campus of Xavier University – Ateneo de Cagayan launched a signature campaign seeking actions to resolve the unbearable smell caused by the city dump. In a letter to incumbent City Mayor Oscar Moreno, the XU Grade School top administrators described the stench from the Zayas Landfill as “repulsive, disgusting, and nauseating.”

The stench is being carried by the breeze all across uptown CDO, affecting schools, housing communities and other establishments.

Residents of upscale subdivisions in uptown CDO have supported the signature campaign, hoping that the initiative will help elevate the problem to the attention of the city council and appropriate government agencies.

The Solid Waste Management Act set the deadline for the closure of open dumpsites across the country 10 years ago.

In 2010, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) issued an authority to the city government of CDO demanding the termination of the Zayas dumpsite.

As the May 2016 national and local elections draw nearer, environmental concerns, waste management in particular, remains a crucial subject for CDO candidates and voters. (READ: Climate change battleground for CDO local bets) –

Alyssa Michelle Viado, a Development Communication student at Xavier University – Ateneo de Cagayan, is a Rappler intern based in Cagayan de Oro City.

$1 = P46.93

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