Baguio City Is Not The Most Polluted City And Here’s Why

A WHO report that was taken from a 2010 research placed Baguio City at the top place of the most polluted city in the Philippines. The WHO based their findings on an independent body’s measurement in Baguio City. This sparked debate among the different sectors, some would agree with the report while some especially those from DENR would disagree. The agreement and disagreement of different parties are obvious (just take a look at that list of people agreeing or disagreeing and their affiliations), unfortunately most people gave in to their personal biases.

Anyway on this issue I must disagree with the news, yes with the news and the findings in part. Here are the reasons why I disagree:

1. The Method of Gathering Data – i am no scientist but im sure that there are factors that would affect the data of any research. So It would be nice to know if the data gathering was done during the rush hours when lots of vehicles are out in the city streets and what this also done the same with the other cities surveyed? Next would be the location or the area surveyed, was it the entire city? or just the downtown area? Sorry to say but the Central Business District does not represent the entire City of Baguio.

2. Conflicting Data – according to EMB their latest data shows that air quality is below the threshold which means that air quality is good. Again lets revert to the data gathering method the report published by WHO came from the data gathered in 2010 so if the present data gathered by EMB says we have a good air quality it must mean that we have improved air quality since the time WHO got their data in 2010. Of course we also have to factor in that EMB and the independent body that WHO got their data have had different devices and standards of measurement. So whom should we trust? A 2010 report or a report from continuous monitoring?

3. Abundance of Lichens – when I was in college we studied about the natural pollution indicators present in Baguio City. One of the most prevalent pollution indicator in the City of Baguio are the Lichens. According to the Australian National Herbarium

“A lichen is not a single organism. Rather, it is a symbiosis between different organisms – a fungus and an alga or cyanobacterium. Cyanobacteria are sometimes still referred to as ‘blue-green algae’, though they are quite distinct from the algae. The non-fungal partner contains chlorophyll and is called the photobiont. The fungal partner may be referred to as the mycobiont. While most lichen partnerships consist of one mycobiont and one photobiont, that’s not universal for there are lichens with more than one photobiont partner. “

Lichens On The Tree At Childrens Playground

If you go around Baguio City you will see these lichens to be very abundant and are attached to the bark of trees, you can identify a lichen by its whitish-bluish-greenish color and its structure resembles a patch of paint on the bark of a tree. What you thought to be patches of white paint on the bark of a tree when you take a closer look would actually reveal a lichen. According to research lichens are great pollution indicators as stated by this article

Lichens are widely used as environmental indicators or bio-indicators. If air is very badly polluted with sulphur dioxide there may be no lichens present, just green algae may be found. If the air is clean, shrubby, hairy and leafy lichens become abundant.

More Lichens Growing At Burnham Park

To add more to the claim that lichens are pollution indicators and its presence and abundance indicates that the air quality is tolerable if not of high quality here is a BBC article on lichens which states that:

Air pollutants dissolved in rainwater, especially sulfur dioxide, can damage lichens, and prevent them from growing. This makes lichens natural indicators of air pollution. For example:

  • bushy lichens need really clean air
  • leafy lichens can survive a small amount of air pollution
  • crusty lichens can survive in more polluted air

In places where no lichens are growing, it’s often a sign that the air is heavily polluted with sulfur dioxide.

If you try to visit Camp John Hay, Botanical Garden, South Drive, Burnham Park and other areas in Baguio City where trees are abundant I can certainly assure you that on the bark of these trees you will see these lichens.

More Lichens

More About Lichens As Pollution Indicator

Is There A Problem?

With such evidences being presented I am personally not saying that we should just brush off this WHO report, certainly this report is still a reason for concern, especially so that Baguio City is supposed to be a Mountain Health Resort, a place to recuperate and relax and one can certainly not do that if the air quality is poor. Modernization and Urbanization certainly contributed to the pollution and to the decline of air quality in the City and this problem should be addressed not only by the City Government but also by the residents.

What I am certainly disagreeing to is the report or news that “Baguio City is the Most Polluted City In The Philippines” that generalization is unfounded and unfair and should be corrected. Instead of making these generalizations it would be best for media to report that air pollution is indeed a problem and should be properly addressed not only by the government but also by its citizens especially so that we all breathe the same air.


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