Bioremediation: Hope of Environment

Manila Bulletin, July 16, 2006 | Go to article overview

Bioremediation: Hope of Environment


Byline: ASUNCION K. RAYMUNDO, Ph.D Academician, NAST Professor, UP-Los Banos Head, Bioremediation Research Team

OUR country keeps on generating tons of toxic and hazardous wastes generally from industries; these are in addition to existing dumpsites like abandoned mines that harbor high levels of pollutants. While some industries claim to manage their toxic wastes properly, environment and health issues related to toxic and hazardous wastes persist. Bioremediation appears to be an approach that is feasible and gives us hope for our environment. Bioremediation is the use of biological entities, either plants (phytoremediation) or microbes (microbial remediation), which are capable of degrading or transforming pollutants into less hazardous forms or even immobilizing them. The diverse metabolic capabilities of biological entities can be harnessed for the degradation or transformation of toxic and hazardous wastes.

Bioremediation has found many applications in other countries. It has been used to remediate oil-contaminated soils in the United States, Europe, and Iraq and in some cases restore them to their original crop production capacity. In the Philippines, bioremediation is almost unheard of. In response to these pollution issues, a Bioremediation Research Team (BRT) was formed under the auspices of the National Academy of Science and Technology. After a series of meetings, the team decided to focus on abandoned mines, an unattended source of hazardous waste.

As a result of Executive Order No. 270 -- the National Policy Agenda on Revitalizing Mining in the Philippines -- last 16 January 2004, as well as the favorable Supreme Court decision on the Philippine Mining Act 7942 of 1995, we are witnessing the revitalization of the local minerals industry, which had become nearly dormant prior to the decision. Such actions have made the government and the private sector hopeful that the mining industry can provide a much-needed boost to our economy.

There are two main issues attached to the mining industry: abandoned mines and the management of mine wastes. In 2004, the Mining and Geology Bureau reported 22 abandoned mines. Phytoremediaton is the approach that is most applicable to these abandoned mines. From the limited analysis done by the group which was spearheaded by Dr. Veronica Migo, it was established that indeed the concentrations of heavy metals are way beyond tolerable limits for soil and much more for sources of drinking water.

To meet the challenges posed by these problems, we have proposed the following projects: Field Tests of Phytoremediation and Microbial Technologies for the Rehabilitation of Contaminated Mine Sites. The Phytoremediation Group of BRT, composed of Drs. Nina Cadiz, Nelly Aggangan and Nelson Pampolina of UPLB, has done an inventory of heavy metal resistant plants that can be used for phytoremediation and developed technologies to ensure a higher survival rate of seedlings (microbial inoculation). Plant species that can be planted in abandoned mines have been identified and research on how to increase their survival rate for phytoremediation use has been done.

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