Sanchez: Hydropower

Visiting the Nurek Dam turned out to be more educational than I thought.

Come to think of it, I chose modern science, or perhaps current events over history.

I figure I can learn a thing or two from Nurek, since Negros Occidental is poised to add to its green sources of electric power from hydro dams.

Hydropower plant projects in Negros Occidental will mostly harness the power of major river systems such as Bago, Hilabangan, Himogaan, Malogo and others.

The Department of Energy has approved hydropower projects in the province as of January 2014, in Salvador Benedicto, Kabankalan, Sagay, San Carlos, Silay and E.B. Magalona, Victorias and Cadiz.

The Negrense projects are very modest in comparison with that of Nurek.

For one thing, Tajikistan’s hydropower potential ranks 8 after China, Russia, the USA, Brazil, Zaire, India and Canada. Tajik energy basis is hydropower – over 95 percent. Tajikistan’s hydropower potential is three times higher than the current electricity consumption throughout Central Asia.

Tajikistan’s waterpower resources have good prospects for the development and consist of 317 billion kWh per year of which a miniscule 4 to 5 percent has been used so far. Melting snow and glaciers from the Pamir Mountains feed the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya Rivers that in turn feed dams like Nurek. Central Asia is alarmed of glacial melt due to climate change.

Tajik’s hydropower facilities dwarf that of Negros Occidental’s targeted power potential from hydropower. Negros Island has no glaciers, but the province has three watersheds: Bago River Watershed Forest Reserve, Ilog-Hilabangan Watershed Forest Reserve, and Kabankalan Watershed Forest Reserve, covering a total area of 72,569 hectares and located in the cities of Bago and San Carlos, Kabankalan and Himamaylan.

Obviously, to build and sustain hydropower, the Philippine State has to safeguard the headwaters found in this watersheds. Tropical countries such as the Philippines are alarmed that we are experiencing losses of our watersheds.

Thus, there is a need to protect our watersheds by conserving our native trees. But mountain development for mountain communities have to learn how to diversify resource utilization from timber to non-timber resources. Maximize the balanced use of forest resources with timber conservation.

For food security and improvement of the quality of life of mountain dwellers living in watershed areas of our protected areas, there is also a need to promote organic agro forestry, or permaculture to conserve soil and water.

Tajik agriculture suffers from low profitability and sustainability of farming that has led to low incomes, debts, vulnerability, food insecurity and degradation of soil fertility. Blame it on the Soviet era where the heavy use of mineral fertilizers and agricultural chemicals such as DDT and several defoliants and herbicides were major causes of pollution.

Two years ago, the Tajik parliament passed the Law on Biologic Farming and Production. The law aims to regulate the production, processing, storage, transportation, packaging, labeling and sale of biological products.

To conserve water for hydropower require the promotion of non-timber forest products and organic agriculture to address the needs of mountain communities. If not, the province stands to lose its freshwater resources and endanger its food security, and sacrifice not just the development of mountains but that of lowlands as well.

(bqsanc@yahoo.com)
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