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Ilonggo Network

The looming water crisis

It is quite ironic that a tropical country, like the Philippines, is now facing a problem on freshwater supply because several reservoirs, particularly those that are supplying Metro Manila, have now limited water stocks.

The water servicing companies have already warned of impending water rationing in Metro Manila in the coming months.

Weather authorities predicted that the El Niño phenomenon we are currently experiencing may extend until middle of next year, and, therefore, the scarcity of freshwater is not a remote possibility. El Niño is an extended dry weather condition. Experts claim that the erratic weather situation in various parts of the world is also brought about by the changing climatic condition of the Earth, or popularly known as the climate change.

El Niño is now affecting not only Metro Manila, but including other areas in the country, as well as some parts of the world. In Negros Occidental, for example, the Department of Agriculture has announced that the water from irrigation systems may not be enough to cover the water requirements of agricultural areas in the province.

The impacts of El Niño include scarcity of water supply for domestic, agriculture and industrial needs, and possible outbreak of diseases, among others. Even the sea water is getting warmer during this weather condition that may affect the fishery productivity. The World Meteorological Organization claimed that the prevailing El Niño could be one of the strongest on record, as reported by the BBC.

The declining water supply during the dry season is further aggravated by the denudation of major watersheds in the Philippines. Watersheds are natural water reservoirs that are dependent to forests in maintaining their functions as water providers and suppliers. With barely a million hectares of natural forest left in the entire country, the predicted scarcity of freshwater is a reality that we have to contend with.

Deforestation is very pronounced in Negros Occidental, because its natural forests are now very limited and isolated in Northern Negros Natural Park, Mount Kanla-on Natural Park, and some forest patches in southern part. In spite of this situation, these remaining forest blocks are not yet fully secured from destructive activities.

The protection of the remaining forests is very necessary, because they are watersheds of the two major water systems in Negros Occidental – the Bago River Watershed and the Ilog-Hilabangan Watershed.

The issue of water in the Philippines is not only limited to quantity, but including quality, too. Because of rapid urbanization and industrialization, various water systems are also affected with pollution. Runoffs from agro-industrial areas, that are using chemicals and pesticides, pollute the water, as well. Of course, the issue on the quality of water provided by water servicing facilities is another concern. These are particularly the reasons why many of us are now using mineral and other processed drinking waters.

Issues associated with water still go back to the basic of forest protection and restoration. While the Aquino administration has declared the “no commercial logging policy in natural forests,” we can still hear and read reports of forest destruction in many parts of the country.

I really hope that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources will come out with a comparative statistic on natural forest cover today versus five or 10 years ago so that we can see the trend. In the same manner, one may ask what is happening to the National Greening Program of the DENR.*

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