On Baguio City's water problem

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By Robert L. Domoguen

Mountain Light

Monday, March 3, 2014


BAGUIO City is in for a protracted water problem, according to a study.

That was supposedly yesterday's world news, long localized, that seem to have taken us by surprise. I wonder who will speak next, become part of the local news on the same subject. Aside from talking, when will we really begin solving the problem, not just the provision of water?

I did not read the study myself, but from what I read from the news, the study focused more on a symptom, the impending water lack. We ought to be in the business of solving the city's water problem and that comes with awareness of several associated problems and their solutions.

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It is not possible to deny the problem's existence. We all thirst for real quality life-giving and natural water now, that is available all day. Piped water is rationed and sometimes, it does not come as scheduled. Can city residents and visitors drink straight from the taps without getting sick these days? How many creeks, wells and other sources are certified safe along with the water these provide. There is none. In the first place, identification, certification, and securing those water sources were not serious priority development concerns. In the decades before this problem, water lack was a minor concern during summer that is easily forgotten when the rains start pouring in June.

Today, the water problem afflicts us all, compounded by its lack during summer or its abundance in the rainy season. All seasons, we all drink purified water from plastic containers. Still, in its abundance or lack is not 100 percent safe and healthy.

Through the 70's, the issue of taps and toilets in the Third World was a major debate and concern in the United Nations. It went on in the 80's until now. The creeks and rivers, instead of being sources of clean tap and irrigation water have become worse. These natural water conveyors have become open sewers.

In those early years, polluted water in Third World countries was "the single greatest cause of human illness and death through disease." The pitch of the UN debates raged with the realization that "half of the world's worst diseases are spread through polluted water. Half of the people in developing countries don't have access to clean water, and crops are irrigated with sewer or municipal water wastes."

Consequently infant mortality, diarrhoea and gastroenteritis are common problems to communities down river. Today, with more cars and modern industries, compounded by chemical inputs in agriculture, carcinogenic chemicals have also invaded water tables and sources, including irrigation canals. Carcinogenic chemicals have been part of the food chain.

We talk about Baguio, in this case, but the water problem has been severely affecting the nation and the third world. The problem is as old as you can now imagine. Add to this, the creeping desertification of the globe's continents that governments have done little to solve over the decades. Now, we have this problem on climate change and these are inter-related.

Going back to the City of Baguio, once discovered, its pristine mountains invited all demographic needs, it being an ideal place for business between two coastal regions and the booming mining industries around. It was an ideal place for rest and recreation, romance and adventure, and ultimately for education.

While in Baguio City you are either a native, immigrant or transient having varied reasons for coming, leaving, or staying for good. Among the immigrant and transients, the natives see the people of Mountain Province as squatters and dominating the population, I doubt it, they may even be the minority group among the ethno linguistic group of the city's population in terms of numbers. Votes, however, can altogether be a different story. Every blood of the Filipino race with a mix of foreign blood throbs in the city's vein that thirsts for clean quality water to drink as you read this.

Managing the city's needs and concerns looks into demographics. But overall, the city's other affairs must somehow give way to ensuring the availability of clean water now, otherwise, progress retrogresses, not to a point of "has been," but even abandonment, a fate that has befallen ancient cities, buried in the sands or standing as ghost towns exposed to the highland elements. For these ancient abodes, the parched land and the whistling wind have long informed humanity that by neglecting the source of clear flowing water, all business and livelihood, fun and the thrill of existence in any place ultimately ends. All communities are dependent on water, and ensuring its availability for the next generations is greedy man's most difficult lesson to learn. It has fuelled the desertification happening everywhere, disrupting microclimates, and now a main component in the debate on climate change, poverty, large-scale droughts and famines.

All of the above problems, local or global took years, decades, and centuries in the making. These are "man-made." According to a widely acclaimed source, the Sahara was once a forest until the demands of the empire of ancient Rome "for timber resulted in the destruction of the great forests of Africa." This was followed by a disastrous farming and herding activity which rapidly led to the desertification of the Sahara, and sub-Saharan regions, a process that is still continuing today. The same man-made process occurred in the Gobi desert of China, this time by the Chinese Empire, and in 1989, major desertification are occurring in some 65 nations, including that of Brazil's rainforest lands.

The water problem and desertification debates and the solutions offered in the UN proved to be inspired dreams than achieved goals but one could not be dismissive of the ideals and achievements of the programmes developed out of those debates. Self interest and political expediency circumvented most of the goals from succeeding in the coverage areas.

Let us look again into the problems with a long gaze into the future.

The people's willingness to endure and suffer will be part of their contribution to the solution of the problem. The crises will not go away in an instant, a year - it may take decades with no permanent solution in sight.

In other countries, solving the water problem and those associated to it, are accomplished with sufficient funds.. Empires forced and continue to solves the problem of water and desertification with the gun. As human nature is wont to find faults or escape goats, other nations will not do anything about the problem without aid that either get wasted by the people's ignorance about their environmental problems, if not corrupted by politicians in cahoots with programme implementers.. The city folks of Baguio and nation too must solve the local water problem with science and education, good politics and unified effort unselfishly served over a "life time."

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on March 04, 2014.

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