No water crisis in Agusan town even in El Niño advent

THE REGION
By CHRIS V. PANGANIBAN
April 23, 2019

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SAN Francisco, Agusan del Sur--Many areas in the country have to bear the brunt of the water crisis brought about by the El Niño phenomenon but not in this progressive town where the 1,658-hectare Mt. Magdiwata Watershed endowed with 92 percent forest cover abundantly supplies thousands of households all year round.
    
Dr. Nilo H. Calomot, professor of environmental science at Caraga State University and Environmental Consultant of Northern Mindanao Natural Resources Council, Inc. (Normin NRC Inc.), has cited the San Francisco Water District (SFWD) for its relentless effort in preserving the sustainable watershed since 1997 that it can now combat climate change and the ill effects of El Niño.
    
“The sustainable management of Mt. Magdiwata watershed by SFWD is the best example of long term solution to the current water crisis in the country,” Calomot said.
    
SFWD has been in the forefront of rehabilitating the mountain watershed once endangered with unabated log poaching and kaingin system from 54 percent open and denuded areas to what is now 92 percent high biodiversity forest cover.
    
Due to increase in  watershed  cover , study revealed  that  that  the flow rate  of surface  water in springs and streams  inside the watershed  had significantly increased  starting 2013 onward in spite of climate variability  and occurrences  of El Niño in 2015 and  2018.
    
Elmer Luzon, SFWD general manager, said that reforestation efforts did not only increased the water yield but had also changed the microclimatic condition of the area bringing more rainfall even in the onset  of  drought and other climate phenomena.
    
“Since there is a direct relationship between the forest cover, water yield, and rainfall, the Mt Magdiwata Watershed experience revealed a highly significant correlation on the water yield and rainfall,” Luzon noted citing a recent study done by SFWD.
    
SFWD’s success story served as a model and inspiration to 10 other local water districts in Northern Mindanao that comprises the Normin NRC Inc.  
    
Many Normin NRC members however are still struggling to preserve watersheds in their respective areas even as a resolution was passed in 2009 one-hectare reforestation model projects with P35,000 yearly budget.
    
Factors preventing water districts in Northern Mindanao to protect their watershed as source of potable water supply were most of these areas are not declared by virtue of law or presidential proclamation and if there are , it is being challenged by overlapping of claims with mining areas operation putting the watershed in peril.
    
A case in point is the 66.20 watershed area of Cantilan Water District in Surigao del Sur of which a big portion has been destroyed a mining company (Marcventures Mining and Development Corp.)
    
Vicente Cirilo Iriberri, general manager of Cantilan Water District, said the destruction of the Lib-og Watershed has caused a major 74 percent decline of water supply from 50,000 cubic meters in January 2018 to 10,000 cubic meters in July 2018.
    
He said  there is an overlapping and conflicting tenurial rights over watershed areas even water rights for irrigation, hydroelectric power and domestic water use against massive issuance of mining tenements.
    
“The lack of political will and sense of priority has resulted to forest denudation,” Iriberri said. He reported that the areas being destroyed by mining are part of the Presidential Proclamation 1747 in 2013 declaring portions of Alamio, Buyaan, Carac-an and Panikian Rivers and Sipagpang Falls, as Watershed Forest Reserves,  Lib-og being part and parcel of Alamio River
    
In a position paper during a forum here at Mabe’s Savory Place and Hotel early last month, Normin NRC, Inc. members have resolved that the greatest problem of many water districts nationwide is water crisis which is the lack of sustainable water supply especially during dry seasons coupled with increasing demand.
    
“Many people believed that current water crisis is attributed by El Nino/climate change. In reality, the greatest problem of all is the vanishing watersheds brought about by   varying degrees of degradation which might affect the sufficient quantity and acceptable quality of waters available to the communities,” the position paper cited.

It further stated: “Remember, a watershed that has  high biodiversity are usually covered with  trees . Since  trees in watershed  serves as the  natural   filter , reservoirs   which usually  reserve  water  during  rainy seasons and release it  to rivers and streams  during dry seasons  , giving off continuous supply of water  for the community.”

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