Philippines may face water shortage without proper management-A A +A
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
JUST like tsunami-hit areas in Japan, the Philippines may also suffer from water scarcity due to inefficient resource management, a Cabinet official said Wednesday.
“At any given time, the country has 146 billion cubic meters of water available, yet we are treating it like a free resource… we are throwing water away by the second, and we are not managing it properly,” Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said.
Not much of water resources in the country are available for public use.
According to the department’s National Water Quality Status Report released in 2006, only 39 percent of 525 water bodies are potential sources of drinking water.
Earlier, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) warned that Asia will face a severe water crisis by 2030, with an estimated water supply shortfall of 40 percent.
Problems such as leaking pipes and pilferage, lack of infrastructure were also identified as threats to water security in the Philippines.
This exactly was the situation faced by Metro Manila last year.
The metropolis was forced to contend with a brief water shortage that underscored structural issues related to the privatization of Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) in 1997, which at that time, was considered as the world's biggest water utility privatization project.
The Water for the People Network (WPN) said only 60 percent of 760,000 households in the service area of west zone concessionaire Maynilad have 24-hour water supply and more than half of its water allocation are wasted due to leaking pipes and pilferage.
In 2010, Maynilad fixed more than 40,000 leaks and consequently recovered over 200 million liters of water per day.
For its part, east zone concessionaire Manila Water claims 99 percent coverage of its service area but this includes those serviced by a third party private contractor often in poor communities.
Paje called on the public to protect the country’s rivers and river basins, which are considered the “bloodstream of society” supporting life of communities surrounding them.
A river basin is a portion of land that drains to a large river with an estuary or ocean as a final destination. The country has 421 principal river basins, with 20 major river basins having a drainage area of more than 1,000 square kilometers.
At the House of Representatives, Marikina Representative Marcelino Teodoro filed House Bill 1844, which seeks to establish an agency that will enjoin local government units in restoring the country’s river systems.
He said agencies, especially the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), were not able to solve the problem since they are “saddled with other similarly important concerns."
"Localizing the approach to this problem is the best way the government can creatively implement programs that will truly work," Teodoro said.
Under the bill, the RDA shall prioritize rivers that are positively identified for development and rehabilitation, and on that basis, prepare a river-specific plan of operation for its improvement, development and rehabilitation of environmentally degraded rivers.
Likewise, the RDA shall conduct engineering surveys of all river systems and natural waterways, assess and monitor water quality, pinpoint pollution sources and identify the rivers that need to be developed for rehabilitation, Teodoro said.
The proposed agency shall also initiate and facilitate planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of pertinent projects with positive impact on environment and development, including the dredging, widening and deepening of river channels and improvement of river alignments.
Meanwhile, Camarines Sur Representative Diosdado "Dato” Arroyo and his mother Pampanga Representative and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo are pushing for a bill that will give protection to the country's potable water resource.
The proposed law, to be known as the "Water Use Efficiency and Conservation Research Act of 2010," tasks the DENR, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and other concerned agencies to implement the program.
These include technologies and processes that enable the collection, storage, treatment and reuse of rainwater, storm water and grey water and water storage and distribution systems.
Technologies should also be developed to address behavioral, social and economic barriers to achieving greater water use efficiency; and use of watershed planning directed towards water quality, conservation and supply.
HB 1806 is still pending with the House Committee on Science and Technology. (Sunnex)