13 April 2010

Greenpeace volunteers waterproofing the camp.

The first night at the Greenpeace Water Watch camp, we were met by light drizzling, which eventually turned into a considerable downpour at around 5:00AM and lasted a  bit less than two hours. Geologist C. P. David, who was kind enough to offer his expertise in setting up instruments to measure climate-related indicators such as precipitation and water level here in Angat Dam, is scheduled to arrive a bit later this morning.  Luckily, he already quickly briefed some of us about how a rain gauge works a few days before we set off for Angat, and we had put one up right on the camp.

The reading showed up as one millimetre rainfall.  Looking at our water level markers, it seemed to have zero effect on the receding levels in Angat. About a foot lower (we will be making more accurate measurements from the markers in three days), it still seemed to confirm the trending estimated for the past couple of weeks by the Angat Watershed Area Team (AWAT) – around a meter lower every 3-4 days.

A resident of Angat dam, north of Manila, stares at the low ater levels of the dam at the height of the summer season.

Shortly after C.P. arrived at camp, a party of volunteers, staff, documentation team, and the Greenpeace boat team set off with him to visit different areas of the dam to look for suitable spots to set up a couple more rain gauges.

Even though the sky was overcast, the sunlight was still very painful on the skin, even through the clouds. Working with shovel and crowbar to get through rock and packed soil was made harder because of the heat.

Eventually, the clouds dispersed and the summer sun came out.  The heat was reflecting so strongly on the orange-brown earth exposed from the receding waters all around the dam. It was an arduous task, but the ironically beautiful landscape around us was enough reminder of how important it was to finish what we set out to do. Everyone in the party just kept pitching in and taking over from each other that it quickly ceased from being a chore, to becoming a team accomplishment.

© Veejay Villafranca / Greenpeace
The Angat dam, which suplies water to the majority of Metro Manila, is now below normal water levels and will continue to be in such perilous state not until the rainy season comes.

So we get back to camp perspiring, dirty, hot and hungry. Lucky for us chef Totoy and the rest of the camp keepers had delicious cooked pasta waiting when we arrived. We made even shorter work of it. :) I had contemplated taking a bath, but after putting in the marker for the day’s water level, and seeing that the recession didn’t seem to slow down despite the rain, I thought that maybe there are a lot of things worse than working with crowbar and shovel under the hot summer sun, or standing my smell after that for a day or so more…

I just hope that, by the time I decide to take a well-deserved bath, there isn’t already water rationing.

Isn’t it ironic – water all around us, but the urgency to save water is a palpable feeling hanging over the entire camp like a Damocles’ Sword?  I hope the people in Metro Manila are not comforted into complacency by the presence of water coming out of their tap.

You don’t have to forego bathing like I did.  It’s just a matter of using less and using smartly: like keeping the faucet valve open at just the right pressure; washing dishes using a basin instead of continuously having the tap running; washing clothes in bulk rather than one or just a few at a time; or recycling dishwater. Maybe you can come up with more..?

Such things may seem small. But if you consider that there are roughly 16 million people living in Metro Manila (not counting the tens of thousands of people who just come in to work or do business everyday), a lot can be accomplished if everyone pitches in.

JP Agcaoli