ROUGH CUTS| This water project must be inclusive

WHEN the members of the Davao City Watershed Management Council (DCWMC) eventually decided to recommend to the City Council the approval of the request of Apo Agua Infrastructura, Inc. (AAII) and the Davao City Water District (DCWD) for exemption of the proposed surface bulk water processing project to be put up in Tamugan, an area within the city’s watershed, it is presumed that they are convinced there is urgent need for more water sources other than the aquifer.

     We know that it has been about two months now since the DCWMC board’s recommendation was forwarded to the local legislative body for appropriate action. However, until now it is not clear what move has been taken by the City Council. The last thing we heard is that it has been remanded to the WMC. Whatever is the reason, we have no idea. But whatever it is, we are certain that it has something to do with the need for refinement possibly because of certain “weaknesses” in the Watershed Management Code such as provisions in the ordinance that need to be harmonized with the WMC board’s recommendatory resolution or the WMC board’s resolution wanting in conformity with the code. Probably some council members are extra careful in not misinterpreting the so-called legal gobbledygook in the ordinance itself.

     But given the present climate situation in the country and what is now prevailing in Davao City and the rest of Mindanao, the members of both the City Council and the WMC board must put themselves in the more forward-looking position. That is, that they have to act now for a disastrous problem that is very likely to come in the very near future; a problem that is much more real than imagined. And that is the fast diminishing supply of water for a ballooning population of Davao City. Imagine providing water with the same underground sources to a city with population reaching to over 2 million in about two or three years’ time!

     Maybe, it is worthwhile reminding some members of the City Council who are relatively young, of the history of the water supply situation of Davao City. Some 40 years back most of the water used by households came from the Dumoy area delivered by water tankers. Those households with direct water pipe connections were served by the defunct National Waterworks and Sewerage Administration or NAWASA that drew its supply from a spring in Maa. NAWASA then was already in the phasing out stage as the government was organizing the local water districts.

     When the DCWD was finally operational, its first target for well drilling was none other than the Dumoy area because everything then pointed to the oozing supply of water in its aquifer.

     In fact we could still remember that during the initial years of the Dacoville Housing subdivision  occupancy anyone who drives a .5 or 1-inch diameter steel pipe in the ground was witness to water gushing out of the pipe as if some supernatural forces were pumping it up.

     We had the opportunity to live in that part of Dumoy for almost the whole of 1979 and the problem experienced by us and all households was too much pressure from water flowing out of the faucets. We have to change gaskets too often to prevent bursting of faucets in the bath room that usually cause flooding inside the house. That was the situation some four and a half decades ago. Today however, free flowing water is already part of history.

     In other words, with today’s development pace of Davao City and the rate of its annual population increase, the need for new water sources is getting more overt. And the members of both the City Council and the WMC board surely know this. So, if they are not convinced that an exemption of the AAI/DCWD project from the coverage of the ban by the Watershed Management Code, or an amendment to the code is already a must, then they have to find other sustainable alternative water sources. And they have to do it now and do it fast; not later much less, on a dilly-dally mode.

     The councilors need not even remind the DCWD and the AAII of their responsibility to set up mitigating measures to protect the watershed.

     After all, the life of their businesses is water and the sustained availability of the water depends on how well they preserve and protect the watershed.

     So who are the businessmen in their right senses who will spend a P10 billion fortune to go into bulk water supply and stay in operation for only five to ten years?

     However, if the members of the two councils are really passionate in their responsibility as guardians of the people’s welfare and the protectors of the environment, then we are strongly recommending that they set as major condition in the final approval of the request of the water firms the assurance that the DCWD which distributes the water delivered by the former, makes the overall project inclusive.

     And by inclusive we mean that residents of all barangays that will be traversed by the pipes of AAI leading to the reservoir of the DCWD be provided with water service. That is, that they too, be installed water connection.

     We believe that if they will be left out and be simply made passive water pipe guards they are like people surrounded with water but dying of extreme thirst.

     As the water utility firm, it has to be the moral obligation of DCWD to serve the people who are affected by the water project not just those who reside in the urban areas and its immediate peripheries who are not reached by the present capacity of the DCWD, more specifically the second district of Davao City

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