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Government revises rules on water discharge from dams

/ 06:19 PM October 08, 2011

MANILA, Philippines—After large areas of Bulacan, Pampanga and Pangasinan turned into veritable water worlds  following excessive rains and the release of water from dams into clogged river systems, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje has ordered the drafting of a new protocol on dam management.

Paje said that with the changing patterns of natural phenomena, there is a need for the National Water Resources Board to review the protocol on dam management, including when they should be releasing water.

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“Climate change has caused every imaginable changes in our environment, from sea level rise to change in the weather pattern, frequency and strength of typhoons, flood course and high precipitation, which now constitute the ‘new normal’,” Paje said in a statement.

According to him, the new protocol should improve coordination among government agencies so that the release of water from dams would not aggravate flooding, and should also put in place emergency measures.

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“The new dam management protocol should fill up all loopholes in coordination as well as in implementing emergency measures to avoid situation such as what happened in Bulacan,” he said.

Parts of Bulacan, Pampanga and Pangasinan suffered through floods, some of which lasted for several days, after typhoon Pedring swept through the northtern part of the country. It was soon followed by typhoon Quiel, bringing no relief to inundated provinces.

The floods in Bulacan were aggravated by the release of water from nearby dams, which officials said was necessary in order to prevent a greater catastrophe should these dams break. Officials in Pamapnag attributed the prolonged flooding to heavily silted rivers, many of them made shallow by lahar from Mount Pinatubo.

Paje also noted that recent events illustrate the need to have better coordination among concerned government agencies as well as to improve the decision making process.

According to NWRB Deputy Executive Director Nathaniel Santos, the technical working group on Angat Dam operations is currently implementing the 2010 version of the dam’s protocol, which was originally formulated in 1998.

Under this, the NWRB is tasked to take charge of allocating water supply to the National Irrigation Administration for the farms of Bulacan and Pampanga, and to the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System for the water supply of Metro Manila, if the dam’s water level is 210 meters above sea level or lower.

But if the dam’s water level is higher than 210 meters, the National Power Corp., the NIA and the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration implement their own protocol.

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TAGS: Bulacan, Climate Change, dam, floods, Government, Pampanga, Typhoon
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