Haribon: Water comes from forests, not from dams
MANILA, Philippines—The answer to the water crisis is the restoration of Philippine forests, environmental group Haribon Foundation said Thursday as it reiterated its opposition to the construction of the multibillion-peso Kaliwa Dam Project.
In a statement, Haribon said the water woes should be understood from the “ridge-to-reef perspective” that begins with where water comes from.
“Water comes from forests, not from dams. Forests absorb water through their roots, release it from their leaves through transpiration, then turn into rainwater together with water evaporated from oceans and other water bodies,” the group said.
“Forests have an indispensable biodiversity value – not only does it supply goods for trade and subsistence, but it also contributes to the water cycle and groundwater withdrawal,” it added.
Haribon also pointed out restoring forests is also a cheaper method in arresting the water crisis, noting that “restoring one hectare of forest costs P16,450 for three years.”
According to Haribon, this shows that only around P2.48 billion is needed to restore 150,000 hectares of forests in the country compared to the P 12.2-billion loan from China that “puts the Philippines at risk of environmental chaos and debt trap.”
The Kaliwa Dam project is among the flagship infrastructure projects of the Duterte administration to be financed by China through a bilateral loan agreement.
Aside from that, the construction of the dam will also ravage the homes of thousands of threatened wildlife species in the Sierra Madre mountain forests, the group pointed out.
Some 67 species found in the watershed area and along the tunnel alignment are listed under the IUCN’s Red List of Endangered Species, four of which are critically-endangered native tree species such as Yakal Saplungan, Bagtikan, White Lauan and Tanguile; endangered species such as narra; 13 vulnerable species including Kamagong, Hamindang, and Tanglin.
Different species of birds and animals will also be affected by the construction of the dam, the group stressed.
“Their presence in the watersheds of Sierra Madre is a good indicator of balance in the ecology, food chain cycle, and natural environmental process that humans benefit from daily,” Haribon said.
Sierra Madre is considered one of the most biodiverse areas and the largest remaining tract of rainforest in the country.
Haribon also chided the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) for failing to respond to how it will establish and implement mitigating measures to address the impacts of structural development on the affected wildlife species.
The construction of the dam, according to Haribon, “will not only submerge their homes but will also impact our daily survival once they go extinct.”
The group urged the government to undertake “cost-effective, sustainable, and nature-based solutions” such as the restoration of our forests in Angat, La Mesa and existing watersheds, rehabilitation of existing water reservoirs, and strengthening of efficient water distribution systems and facilities.
“We continue to call on the Government to strongly uphold the existing environmental laws that protect our biodiversity and cultural assets as well as the procurement policy that promote the ideals of good governance and transparency to all its branches,” said the foundation.
Edited by JE
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