The recent onslaught of Super Typhoon Ompong triggered the release of waters from big Luzon dams and caused flooding in low-lying areas. Water rights group Water for the People Network (WPN) said that because of this and other harmful effects on communities and livelihoods, the government should shift away from building large dams to more viable and sustainable water-sourcing technologies.
Under its water security roadmap, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage Systems (MWSS) earlier announced major dam projects, one of which is the New Centennial Water Source Project (NCWS). This project is expected to provide an additional water supply of 2,400 million liters daily (MLD), as well as generate 50 megawatts of energy to supplement the electricity needs of industries, business and commercial establishments in the National Capital Region (NCR). The Kaliwa Low Dam is one of the three dams to be immediately built under the NCWS and is targeted to supplement the water sourced from the Angat Dam over the next five years.
WPN however said that the promised cheap water and electricity, irrigation and flood control for which existing large dams have been built have largely been unmet. These have also caused displacement and destruction, said the group, which can happen again should dams under the NCWS be constructed.
According to the WPN, siltation minimizes the potential water and electricity large dams were built to deliver. For example, the San Roque Multipurpose Dam only delivers 85 megawatts (MW) or just 27.2% of its rated capacity of 345MW because of heavy siltation. Binga Dam was un-operational for two years also because of heavy siltation.
WPN added that due to the release of waters from major Luzon dams, including those that released waters recently, such as Ambuklao, Binga, Pantabangan, Magat, and San Roque, the country records huge losses in agriculture and fisheries annually during the typhoon season. Such reported losses from 2004 to 2015 alone amounted to some Php34.3 billion in damages to properties, agriculture and fisheries. The recent Karding enhanced Habagat in August wrought massive flooding in over 500 barangays in seven provinces and areas in the National Capital Region.
WPN recalled that in 2003, the San Roque Multipurpose Dam displaced 20,000 Ibaloi villagers, and affected the livelihood of 4,400 farmers and 3,000 gold panners. Today, indigenous peoples, majority of whom are Dumagat and Remontado, oppose the NCWS dams. According to a 2013 feasibility study, an estimated 6,214 households or about 31,070 individuals will be displaced when the building of these dams inundate nine Tanay barangays and one in General Nakar. Agricultural, forest area, wild lands and wildlife habitats comprising 2,239 hectares inside the Kaliwa Watershed Forest Reserve and 113 hectares inside the Real, Infanta, General Nakar (REINA) Natural Park Wildlife Sanctuary and Game Reserve (NPWSG), which are environmentally critical areas, will also be inundated.
Mostly to be funded through official development assistance (ODA), huge infrastructure projects such as these large dams will burden consumers more, WPN added. The Php12.2 billion Kaliwa Low Dam, for example, will be 85% funded by China ODA loan. The cost of the project including the payments on the ODA loan interest, other construction expenses, as well as the incentives provided for private concessionaires and contractors, will all eventually be borne by consumers through high water and electricity user fees. As it is, consumers are still paying off the remaining debt incurred by the government from building large hydropower projects such as the Casecnan and San Roque Dams.
The WPN called on the MWSS, the primary project proponent, and its two private concessionaires, the Manila Water Corporation, Inc. and Maynilad Water Services Inc., to stop using the alleged water crisis as an excuse for building the NCWS and other large dam projects under the Build, Build, Build infrastructure program. Instead of building infrastructure for profit, much-needed Filipino-owned social and economic infrastructure such as agricultural and industrial facilities including community-based water and renewable energy systems should be built, said the group.###
(WPN will be co-sponsoring “Let the Rivers Flow”, a forum and network launch versus megadams, on October 6, 10 AM-4PM at the Little Theater of Miriam College, Quezon City. There will be photo and interview opportunities starting 230pm.)