Blockchain to Nature’s rescue: Rehabilitating one of the world’s most polluted rivers

Named as one of the world’s dirtiest rivers, the 27-km stretch of the Pasig River in the Philippines is slowly regaining life after it was proclaimed “biologically dead” two decades ago. 

From years of joint efforts from the national government and local communities, the rehabilitation of the river, with its large scale clean ups and settlement relocations, is seeing a slow yet fruitful development. 

Now, the progress has become even more streamlined as data technology steps in. With the initiative of a social enterprise, and in partnership with the government, a technology called blockchain is being used to aid Pasig River in reclaiming its former glory. 

Blockchain is a ledger innovation that distributes digital information. It is a platform for immutable data records (in chains of blocks) that are automated and managed by computer systems. With security as its strongest suit, blockchain is designed to easily detect changes and anomalies in data transactions. It was initially used in cryptocurrencies and transmission of funds. In recent years, blockchain has been applied already to other kinds of transactions, such as managing scientific data. It is also used in food safety, digital voting, and even music tracking. 

What blockchain contributes to the recovery of Pasig River is its capacity to identify problems and provide solutions. Through installation of internet of things (IoT) devices in the river, the technology securely collects and analyzes data on the status of the river’s water quality, tide level, and garbage volume. It also efficiently tracks and monitors progress in real time.

On top of that, the local communities were promised incentives through cryptocurrency each time they collect garbage from the river. 

Similar to this, in West Africa, Niger River also tapped Blockchain to boost its clean-up of oil spills. The rehabilitation project for the river was being slowed by rampant corruption in the local government and lack of accountability from stakeholders. There were also ethnic tensions and rise of violence. Because of these issues, blockchain was explored. Through decentralizing and digitizing financial transactions, blockchain solved the dilemma by reducing those fears of anomalies. As a result, the community was finally able to trust, support, and coordinate with the river’s recovery plans.  

This extent of transparency is also one of the reasons why blockchain was carried out in the monitoring project for water quality control in Russia’s Volga River.

The river, which is also tainted with heavy pollution, utilized blockchain with modern robotics and IoT. The modern robotic technology innovated solar-and-battery-powered water drones to navigate the river waters and to measure the water quality parameters and level of pollution. The data collected from these drones are made secured as blockchains protect them from falsification. 

View of the Pasig River in Manila.

These instances show that blockchain is a rapidly growing trend in technology use, moreso that data has thrived as today’s “oil” and its value keeps increasing. Over time, data security and efficiency have become more crucial especially to data-driven projects such as environmental research. 

These feats also debunk the misconception that technology is nature’s nemesis. Nature and technology don’t hinge on polar opposites; they work together. In fact, technology is being borne out of nature, and when used right, technology also gives back. 

WORDS: Nadine Lacuarta


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