Campaign Starts to Save Northen Luzon Watershed

An uphill battle has begun to save Northern Luzon’s watersheds as they face further deterioration.

BY ACE ALEGRE
Contributor
Bulatlat

BAGUIO CITY (246 kms north of Manila) – An uphill battle has begun to save Northern Luzon’s watersheds as they face further deterioration.

“We really have to act now not for this generation but for the next generation to come,” said Undersecretary Hermenegildo Dumlao, Sr., executive director of the North Luzon Growth Quadrangle and convener of the forthcoming North Luzon Water Resources and Environment Summit here.

“The country’s watersheds are courting an environmental disaster and the Philippine government has to launch a major rescue operation to stop the further decline in the country’s forest cover and water resources, ‘ Dumlao said.

Dumlao also said corrective and preventive measures are necessary to rehabilitate, restore and manage watershed projects that would sustain clean water consumption, food production, irrigation systems, electricity generation, environmental conservation and eco-tourism development across North Luzon.

The summit, which will be held on May 20 will gather all sectors and stakeholders on Northern Luzon’s watershed management and care including all congressmen, governors, mayors, local legislators and government agencies and non-government organizations to meet headway the challenge of debilitating watersheds.

NL lifeblood ‘in the red’

Cordillera watersheds – touted as Northern Luzon’s lifeblood – are in the red, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) office here has warned.

In particular, the forest lands in the tri-boundary of Mountain Province, Ifugao and Benguet are dwindling in life because of conversion into vegetable gardens, DENR-Cordillera Regional Director Primitivo Galinato admitted during a recent two-day Asian Development Bank (ADB)-led meeting here.

The Cordillera watershed plays a vital role since it benefits not only the Cordillera Rergion but also the Regions I and II, and even parts of Region III.

The Cordillera Region is the main water source of 13 big major river systems in the North.

Though admitting the vegetable farming activity of these farmers might be of financial help to them individually, Galinato insisted that “it is not sustainable in the long run if the ecosystem is destroyed.” He said that once the ecosystem is destroyed, it will be very hard to restore it as a watershed.

The forestland conversions will also be affecting the region’s daunted role as power generator because of the lack of water that will propel the turbines of the hydroelectric dams, Galinato further said.

He further added that agricultural productivity in the low-lying areas will also be affected if these watersheds are destroyed.

Dumlao added that an average of 1,700 hectares of watershed is ruined annually due to natural and human activities. This further causes problems of contaminated drinking water, food and energy shortage, flooding, landslides and pollution.

Deterioration of watersheds, Dumlao warned, has caused adverse cumulative effects on agri-industry, infrastructure, tourism and socio-economic conditions of communities from both the upland and lowland areas, thus limiting their farm output and livestock production, transport and delivery of goods, and livelihood and income opportunities. “There must be a stop to these,” he said.

A collective, holistic and inter-sectoral partnership among key stakeholders such as government agencies, local government units (LGUs), the academe, the private sector and non-government organizations (NGOs) in the Cagayan Valley, Ilocos and Cordillera regions should come up with an integrated watershed development plan.

The summit, explained Dumlao, will serve as a venue to lay down various issues across the three regions and reconcile conflicting or overlapping tasks and eventually set off the implementation of a watershed plan for Northern Luzon.

“We hope to arrive at an inter-regional consensus on how to address environment and water resource issues and problems and make doable action plans to avert the debilitating water resources problems,” Dumlao said.

The summit is expected to be highlighted by the drafting of a covenant where the commitments of stakeholders will be enshrined. (Bulatlat.com)

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