Are we back to our wasteful ways of using water?
Each one of us must respond urgently to the national water crisis. In Metro Manila, our complacency has been jolted twice already.
When water started flowing again after the first wave of the water shortage, we went back to our wasteful ways. We leave the tap open when cleaning our hands or washing our clothes.
Then the second phase came. Supply from the Angat Dam continued to dwindle for weeks. Supply interruptions in homes persisted.
Did the recent developments finally make us realize how precious water is?
Take note of the following: At least 55 people die every day from water-related causes; 300 out of our 1,500 municipalities are totally without water; and irrigation today provides only 50 percent of supply needs. There is simply not enough water available from our severely diminished water tables and sources.
In view of this, the Movement for Water Security (MWS) made eight recommendations for the government to implement immediately. These were submitted and discussed during the congressional water hearing on June 25, and at the Department of Agriculture (DA)-attached Philippine Council of Agriculture and Food Climate Change Committee meeting on June 26.
The MWS is composed of farmers, fisherfolk, rural women, professionals, industry and agriculture leaders, Rotary Club officials, Girl and Boy Scouts, etc. The chair is former governor and current Boy Scouts of the Philippines president Roberto Pagdanganan.
The MWS submitted the following eight urgent recommendations to the legislative and executive branches of government:
- Create a department of water. While waiting congessional approval, prepare an executive order to set up a structure that will coordinate and direct 32 water-related government agencies.
- Aside from formulating a National Water Roadmap, implement the long-delayed Integrated Water Resource Management framework for our 18 major water river basins.
- Develop and optimize our water resources by cultivating public and private sector funding mechanisms.
- The Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education should urgently launch a nationwide campaign for water conservation by involving communities.
- Local government units and national government agencies should implement water harvesting starting from the households in order to increase our 4-percent rate to match India’s 60 percent.
- The National Irrigation Administration should prioritize irrigation repairs and rehabilitation in many areas where rates of return have been proven high. This should be supported by farmer monitoring and involvement.
- The Department of Public Works and Highways and the DA should fast-track the construction of water impounding dams, the way China did so successfully.
- The Department of Environment and Natural Resources should work with the private sector to address what to do with our 5.7 million hectares of denuded land. The goal is to reverse the downward reforestation trend of 360,357 hectares in 2015 to only 132,741 ha in 2018, and to restore 300,000 ha of mangroves.
The big challenge is for the public and private sector to now join hands and take immediate action. We must manage the water crisis, instead of this crisis managing us, which is sadly happening today.
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