MANILA -- The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has launched on Wednesday, July 4, a new award that recognizes efforts to save rivers from pollution and other threats.

Called Recognizing Individuals/Institutions towards Vibrant and Enhanced Rivers (RIVERs) for Life Award, it will honor Philippine community and provincial environment and natural resources officers, who effectively implement in their respective areas of responsibility environmental laws and the agency's initiatives relevant to rivers.

"Through the award, we hope to give life to rivers and revitalize these," DENR Undersecretary Jonas Leones said at the award's launching.

Leones called for action to revitalize rivers, noting that pollutants from agricultural, domestic and industrial activities end up contaminating rivers.

He said the award will help inspire further protection and conservation action for rivers as it also increases public awareness.

"Rivers and their tributaries are the lifeblood of Earth -- we want to encourage people to look after and sustainably manage these," he said.

The country has 421 principal rivers aside from smaller rivers, DENR data show. Agricultural run-off from farms, household sewage and industries' untreated wastewater reach rivers and pollute it - jeopardizing its condition and capability to provide food, Leones said.

"Our vision for pollution-challenged rivers is to be clean and healthy, for dead rivers to live and breathe," he said.

The nationwide search for the first batch of awardees will be conducted from July to December and will be on a semi-annual basis.

Among the criteria for selecting the awardees are river water quality improvement interventions, and information and education initiatives for environmental protection and conservation.

Leones said the DENR targets to award the winners during the agency's 2019 New Year's call. (PNA)