Angat Dam an alarming threat
Overdependence on Angat Dam poses a very serious threat with disastrous consequences, especially for Metro Manila residents. We must give priority attention to the chaos that is certain to erupt if a calamity cuts us off from Angat Dam.
We are experiencing today a water shortage in Metro Manila. On March 11, water expert Dondi Alikpala stated: “Five to six years ago, the study to develop Kaliwa Dam as a new water source for Mega Manila had been completed. The project was to be funded by PPP, and several competent firms had expressed serious interest in investing. In 2016, the PPP plans were scrapped in favor of funding the project with Chinese loans for Chinese construction firms. The project has yet to start. And here we are today.”
On March 12, MWSS chief regulator Patrick Ty wrote: “Manila Water has been warning that there will be a looming water shortage if we do not have a new water source soon. Due to the increase in population, Manila Water’s requirement is now 1,750 million liters per day (MLD). Their allocation of 1600 MLD given 22 years ago in 1997 is not enough now. So they used their reserve water, which is the La Mesa Dam. Since it hasn’t been raining, their reserve is not getting replenished. This is the reason we have a shortage in the Manila Water side. We need a new water source, and we need it soon.”
In an earlier speech by AGBIAG party list Rep. Michelle Antonio, she pointed out the following:
There is only one major water source for Metro Manila: the Angat Dam. This provides 97 percent of Metro Manila’s water supply.
The Angat Dam management allocates the water supply shared by domestic and industrial users, irrigation of about 31,000 hectares of farm land and power supply generation to feed the Luzon grid, which takes care of more than 20 transmission lines in Luzon.
In 2020, Angat Dam will not be able to meet the needs of more than 15 million Mega Manila inhabitants.
If the 50-year-old ticking time bomb of Angat Dam collapses, it will be a total disaster. Since Angat Dam sits along the West Valley Fault, this fault can move anytime and trigger a 7.2-magnitude earthquake.
A commissioned study reveals there will then be 30,000 deaths, P201 billion in damages, and 10- to 30-meter high floodwaters ravaging 20 towns in Bulacan, three towns in Pampanga and three cities in Metro Manila. This is in addition to the severe water shortage in Metro Manila, which will result in chaos.
What should be done? There is a saying: “If there is something worth doing, it is worth doing badly.” The point is that even if the response is not an ideal one, we must move quickly. If time is of the essence, the late former Health Secretary Juan Flavier used to say: “Just doh it.”
There are alternatives to Angat Dam. These are the Kaliwa Dam in Quezon and the Laiban Dam in Rizal. Together, they can produce more than the 2,000 MLDs provided by Angat. Kaliwa can be done first, followed at the appropriate time by Laiban.
There are difficult political, legal, settlement and environmental issues at stake. That is why construction is seriously delayed.
This is where President Duterte’s strong political will and creativity should come in. Boracay and Manila Bay had problems. The President solved these problems, while others did not.
We are now suffering from the effects of El Niño. This would not have been as bad if a key recommendation of the 2017 seven water presummits had been given to the President, and most likely addressed by him. This was to improve our low 4 percent water harvesting rate, compared to India’s 60 percent in some areas. No presidential intervention, not much water harvested.
The private sector Movement for Water Security will highlight the Angat Dam issue during the National Water Summit on March 21. They look forward to taking action to support the President’ s strong political will on the matter and other key issues the summit will identify. We can overcome our water crisis only if the President himself leads a united public-private team effort to achieve water security for our people, especially the poor.
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