Planners, local experts, explored mapping techniques and modelling technologies for plastic hotspotting

In the Waste Analysis and Characterization Study (WACS) of Cagayan de Oro City completed on February 2021, results showed that 11% of the 297 ton daily waste generated by the city is unmanaged. It is the fraction of this 11%, which potentially leaks into rivers and bays, that the city, through its City Local Environmental and Natural Resources Office want to track down.

With the help of mapping techniques and modelling technologies, Cagayan de Oro, and other cities and agencies may just be able to do that.

On September 21, 23, and 24, 2021, more than 100 local experts and planners from the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Calapan, Davao, Legazpi, Manila, Naga, and Ormoc, and national government agencies such the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources and the Department of Human Settlement and Urban Development, participated in the hands-on training on hotspotting technologies and modeling software. The 3-day training aims to capacitate local experts and practitioners in establishing baseline information on riverine and coastal plastic hotspots through remote sensing, machine learning, and mapping.

Module 1 provided a general introduction to Google Earth Engine, its basic functionalities and limitations particularly on plastic index detection. Module 2 introduced more mapping techniques with the use of drone technology and machine learning. Having the background on how to create a database for plastic from Modules 1 and 2, including a plastic index based satellite images and detecting plastic from done images, the participants learned how to validate these databases on the field using an open-source program QGIS and QField in Module 3. All modules allowed participants to try the software themselves through hands-on group activities and engage in general discussions with experts.

The Arcadis Shelter Programme team with experts from Arcadis Netherlands and Arcadis Singapore conducted the training. It was organized under UN-Habitat’s Healthy Oceans and Clean Cities Initiative (HOCCI), a project which supports the Philippine government in reducing marine plastic pollution, funded by the Government of Japan.

While the highly technical sessions conducted in a short period time posed some challenges, local experts and planners were able to get a grasp of how the tools can be used to improve their baseline information and complement existing data on waste such as their WACS results using the Waste Wise Cities Tool. The complementing approaches can help cities identify plastic hotspots along their rivers and coasts in support of their marine plastic litter reduction projects.

“It helps everyone to have a way of thinking as they go through the process; they get to think in advance where they are headed, what kind of plastic hotspot map do they want, and what they want to do with it,” said Wout van Dijk, Arcadis Advisor for River and Coastal Morphology and the lead facilitator and expert for the training series.

“With the introduction to these useful tools, we also see the need to further build our capabilities — capacitate to understand, familiarize, and eventually actually use these tools. These means capacitating data collectors, programmers, and even the decision makers who will have to appreciate these tools and trust these tools for evidence-based decision making,” said Christopher Rollo, UN-Habitat Philippines Country Manager.

HOCCI partner cities will be identifying their needs for further capacity building activities so they can actually use these tools and technologies.

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