Greenpeace "Water Watch" camp stays vigilant

As Angat Dam breaches critical levels

Feature story - April 16, 2010
Greenpeace today stepped up its call for the need for urgent political action to climate-proof the country's water resources as water levels in Angat Dam breached its critical level.

A Greenpeace activist places a sign to mark how the water levels of Angat dam have been receding daily since April 12. The sign "180 m" delineates the dam's critical level which it breached Wednesday, April 14. The reservoir's waters are decreasing at a rate of one centimeter per hour, or one meter in less than five days, an alarming rate that can continue as the current El Nino weather phenomenon intensifies.

The decline in Angat's water levels is currently being monitored by the "Water Watch" camp which Greenpeace, together with National Power, set up last Monday. As the El Nino weather phenomenon intensifies, it is expected to further aggravate drought conditions across the country.

"The Philippines is a regular victim of extreme weather which has held us hostage to drastic situations of too much or too little water. Climate change is expected to intensify extreme weather events, but our current water management systems are still far from being climate-proofed," said Mark Dia, Deputy Campaign Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

"The current drought is a clear signal that securing our water supply must be a top priority for the next government. Presidential candidates must inform the public how they will deal with this growing crisis during their first 100 days in office," Dia added.

Greenpeace is challenging presidential candidates to lay down policies that will: 1) prioritize hazards- and vulnerability-assessments to identify risks and implement adaptation measures to prevent or alleviate water shortage in case of drought; or lessen damage to crops, property and infrastructure in the case of too much rain; and 2) improve the existing capabilities of monitoring teams to develop efficient forecasting and warning systems for extreme weather events that are critical to protecting lives, property and critical environmental resources.

The Water Watch project is also calling on the public to seriously practice water conservation measures at home, such as reusing water, fixing water leaks and avoiding non-urgent water use.

Water levels in the various dams in Luzon are going down, some to very alarming levels. In Ambuklao, dam water level is 740.19 meters above sea level (masl), which is below the normal level of 752 masl. In Binga, it is at 560.25 masl, which is below the normal level of 575. In Caliraya, dam level is 285.83 masl, below the normal of 289.15 masl. And in Angat, dam waters have gone down to 179.55 masl, way below its normal level of 210 masl.

"Angat dam waters are decreasing at a rate of one centimeter per hour. In less than five days, it goes down by more than one meter. We should be very concerned already at this rate", said Dennis S. Gana, spokesperson, National Power.

He further added that National Power has done all means to keep the Angat watershed intact, but since there is no inflow of water to the reservoir due to lack of rain, not even the forest can provide the needed supply to augment the existing one.

"A more aggressive approach towards conservation is needed on the demand-side. As for our part, government will exhaust all means available to address the current water and power shortage. One of this is to maximize current water supply with more strict implementation of water allocations as given by the National Water Resources Board (NWRB). Contingencies are likewise being drawn up by the Department of Energy to address the power situation", Gana said.

Greenpeace and National Power have jointly undertaken Water Watch, a project to help increase awareness and concern among the public on the effects of Climate change on the country's water resources. Water watch is an interactive campaign, where bloggers can log in their comments and suggestions on how to save our environment. Visit http://saangalingtubigmo.com.

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Water Watch is a project of Greenpeace intended to call attention to the need to protect and conserve our dwindling freshwater resources and the urgent need to establish adaptation measures in the light of extreme weather events brought about by climate change. Find out more by visiting the website.

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