MINDANAO officials, after their latest ocular inspection, agreed that the deteriorating state of Lake Lanao’s watershed area contributed to how quickly its water level ebbed with the onslaught of El Niño.

Mindanao Development Authority (Meda) chair Jesus G. Dureza said since the start of El Nino the lake’s water level ebbed at an unprecedented rate of one to two centimeters per day.

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“In barely four months (150 days), Lake Lanao’s water level dropped by 75 meters, forcing a shutdown of one of the turbines at one time,” Dureza said in a press briefing early this week.

Dureza said vast portions of the Lake Lanao “that powers the island’s Agus hydroelectric plants (I to IV)” watershed area appeared “slashed and burned” and heavily denuded when they flew over the area for their latest monitoring.

“Kitang-kita mo na maraming kaingin doon sa loob at talagang kalbong-kalbo na (From the chopper, you could clearly see many regions were slashed and burned and the watershed is seriously denuded),” Dureza lamented.

He said unabated deforestation of the watershed, due to poor implementation of natural resource protection and management laws attribute to the closer occurrences of El Niño the country.

“In the past, El Niño occurs in six-year cycles. Now, it seems to be happening annually,” Dureza, citing the significant lack of forest cover of the lake’s watershed area that helps absorb greenhouse gases, observed.

It was universal knowledge, he said, that massive deforestation caused global warming to reach critical stage.

Mindanao Business Conference (MinBizCon) chair Vicente T. Lao, who inspected the watershed with Dureza, concurred saying the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) should strictly implement watershed management and conservation laws.

He said the island would not have a power crisis of such magnitude if DENR “aggressively managed watershed areas.”

At least 70 percent of Mindanao's power supply, mainly from the National Power Corporation’s (Napocor) generating plants and independent power producers (IPPs), transmitted through its 138 kilovolts (KV) and 69 KV grids are generated from hydropower sources.

“There is (a dire) need for (national) government to diligently manage watershed areas in Mindanao. It’s about a no-nonsense enforcement of (applicable) laws,” Lao said.

Lake Lanao Development Authority

In the meantime, Dureza bared plans to reactivate and convene Lake Lanao stakeholders and other green advocates are underway.

“We intend to reactivate the Lake Lanao Development Authority and Lanao-based non-government organization Salaam to draft a comprehensive watershed management plan,” he explained.

Together with Department of National Defense Secretary Norberto B. Gonzales, Dureza added they will convene other watershed advocate-non-government organizations for this purpose.