Contamination

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By Jun Ledesma

Sunbursts

Monday, July 21, 2014


I HAVE it from veritable source that a multinational banana corporation had developed some 200 hectares of land adjacent to Tamugan River and its tributaries. This is a serious issue in the backdrop of the plan of the city government and of the Davao City Water District to tap the surface water of Tamugan.

A couple of years ago, corporate farms were warned by the city legislators to stop aerial spray. This issue was brought to court but because of the slow litigation process the matter was altogether forgotten. Be that as it may, the city directed corporate farms to put up buffer zones to protect residential areas from the drift and waterways from cascading waters which might carry pesticide residues to the rivers.

I too remembered that years back banana plantations encroached into the Mt. Apo national park. These were stopped. Just when nobody was watching, here comes a giant banana corporation slowly eating up into the city’s watersheds.

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This must be stopped and the firm should be tasked to reforest the area they had developed into a banana farm. I knew they are hankering for this area because upland bananas command a premium price in Japan. But they cannot do this at the expense of the city residents. I am urging Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to issue an order stopping corporate farms from converting recharge areas or watersheds of Davao City’s aquifers to monocrops. Their failure to comply with the directive of the city council to put up buffer zones should the more deter them from invading watersheds or anywhere beside Tamugan river and tributaries.

In fact, there is a need of paradigm shift in the cultivation of agricultural crops in the watershed areas. Vegetable growers, for example, are using pesticides that are more hazardous to human health than those used in banana plantations. Many of these farms are found in lands adjacent to Tamugan and Talomo Lipadas rivers. It is about time they shift to agro-forest not only because they will be earning more from say coffee or cacao but these cash crops are also veritable forest cover and can absorb substantial amount of carbon emission.

There is also a simple math involved in this. A ganta of coffee beans for example can earn several folds more than four sacks of cabbage. Lumads use a native horse to transport their produce. It will be easier to transport coffee or cacao beans than the voluminous perishable vegetables. Aside from coffee and cacao, rubber trees thrive well in the watershed areas. DCWD has a 50-hectare pilot farm and the trees are ready to be tapped.

Corporate farms should partner with lumad communities to do reforestation program in areas that are not arable. While shifting from vegetable to agro-forestry the marginal farmers should have some form of subsistence. Corporate farms may employ lumads in putting up buffer zones in areas near Tamugan river in particular. I am proposing this in consonance to the implementation of a bulk water project which will tap the surface water of Tamugan. I am sorry folks but since I was placed by Mayor Duterte in DCWD Board, I have to do my work. That is why I am urging our mayor to freeze all agricultural developments that are heavily reliant on chemicals in areas near Tamugan and its tributaries. On the other hand, we want to see agro-forestry and organic farming of vegetable growers.

It is about time that corporate agricultural companies and firms that are engaged in businesses that have the potential to pollute our environment must address to their conscience their participation in projects aimed at mitigating the hazards that they create.

We ought to protect the principal watersheds that are the sources of Davao City’s sparkling water considered one of the best if not the best in the world. If you have the means, DCWD has the way. Your water authority has active pilot projects in the area. Call them or call me. Or email me: sledjr@gmail.com.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 22, 2014.

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