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Why not bamboo instead of large-scale dams?

The Inquirer editorial on Holy Wednesday asked how much sacrifice it would require from the Dumagat Agta people, the Filipino taxpayers, and the environment if the Kaliwa Dam project meant to provide water to Metro Manila consumers would proceed. In the same issue was a report that the Manila Water Company’s (MWC) chief operating officer, Geodino Carpio, had retired early.

Part of the area Kaliwa Dam would traverse is Laiban, Tanay, Rizal. We have worked with some of the people in the community including those in adjacent communities. There are many more families than the 46 that Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) administrator Reynaldo Velasco had claimed. About Carpio’s early retirement, the report stated that in response to MWC’s proposal to tap the Laguna Lake for the increasing demand from its east zone customers, Velasco had said: “There is no looming water shortage….”

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The MWC and MWSS exchanges happened, it seems, only in 2018. But it wasn’t just last year that we learned about global warming, climate change, El Niño and La Niña. Every year, government and nongovernment organizations would hold water conventions. Meanwhile, no one remembers the law on rainwater harvesting, while authorities almost always ignore rampant logging, mining, quarrying and garbage dumping. Poor forest guards are killed and communities suffer from the blasting of mountains, from erosion, landslides, toxic emissions, leachate and pollution of water bodies from garbage dumpsites.

The massive planting of bamboo could be an alternative to large-scale dams. A bamboo seedling 2 feet high would grow much taller than a regular one-story setup in one year, and by then would have much water stored in its roots. A large dam would take at least three years to build, displace communities, and leave us heavily indebted. With bamboo stands in as many areas as possible, groundwater supply would increase and be easily tapped from small water-impounding dams, shallow tube wells, irrigation canals and the like, without risking subsidence—just one of the  many benefits derived from bamboo.

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Small-scale water sources are safe; large dams overflow during storms, inundate communities and destroy lives and property, as happens when water from the Angat and La Mesa dams is released during rainstorms.

Big business must help arrest the deteriorating condition of the environment, by designing and carrying out a truly ecological business orientation that will preserve and protect our water, land, air, as well as human resources increasingly threatened by the ever-expanding commercial and residential complexes owned by big business. Many of these complexes encroach on converted, prime agricultural land and watersheds—with the consent of government.

Big business and government should work together to repair the damage. Plant bamboo, for example, and more trees in as many areas as possible; restore mangroves and harvest rainwater; guard watersheds from illegal loggers, quarrying, mining and garbage dumping; initiate and invest in ecological resource management projects, and manufacture environment-friendly products and packaging; introduce, develop, adopt innovative processes that will recycle and reuse environment-friendly materials, and conserve raw materials like water and energy; reduce waste; prevent pollution and other environmentally destructive consequences; and so on.

Only in a sound environment, where the greater majority of the people are safe, healthy and have purchasing power, can business thrive, and government rule, best.

Mr. President, we could still back out of the Kaliwa and Chico River Dam loans.

China, listen: Why destroy our giant clams, a process that is also destroying other resources in the waters you want to claim? Your environment will also be destroyed in the long run, because there are no boundaries in nature and your people will suffer because wealth wrested from us poor Filipinos will not serve your people well; they need more than just material wealth. But you have the most extensive bamboo forests in the world, the most beautiful buildings made of bamboo, plus so much more, in addition to your great people. Even with bamboo alone, you could regain your position in history as one one of the greatest civilizations of the world.

Ana Celia A. Ver-Papa (bangonkalikasan@yahoo.com) promotes ecological resource use, composting to eradicate garbage and rehabilitate degraded lands, bamboo cultivation, and other best practices as a way of life.

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TAGS: bamboo, dams, opinion, Philippines
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