Thursday, March 22, 2007

World Water Day

March 22 is commemorated as World Water Day, as coordinated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on behalf of the 24 agencies and programme members of United Nations — Water. This year’s theme is "Coping With Water Scarcity".

In the Philippines, more and more people are buying bottled water. Years and years ago in Europe, I was astounded that people had to buy drinking water due to its scarcity. About 20 to 25 years ago in the Philippines, bottled water was considered a luxury. The only people I saw using bottled water are foreign expatriates and workers doing business in Metro Manila. Now, a large percentage of Filipinos prefer the more expensive bottled water than getting water from their faucet. It is quite ironic that our country consists of 7,107 islands surrounded by water, water everywhere, but with not a clean drop to drink for many, especially in the rural and urban slum areas.

Starting late 2006, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) has reduced its daily supply of water for households and businesses in Metro Manila. They said that the water level in Angat Dam, which supplies more than 70 percent of Metro Manila’s water as well as irrigation for Central Luzon, dropped to its lowest level due to El Niño. Because of this, most households and business establishments commonly experience no water from the faucet at certain periods during the day everyday, forcing everyone to conserve and ration water, which is good. But this will mean only one thing, as water gets more scarce, it will become more expensive, as the law of supply and demand would predict.

We are fortunate that in our country, simple technologies like piped-in water and flush toilets are available, while in the rural communities, irrigation pumps and deep wells provide water for everyday use. In some parts of the world, women have been reported to spend as much as eight hours a day going to and from distant and polluted sources, carrying up to 41 kilos of water on their heads or hips in order to provide for domestic needs. Overall, we are lucky that there is sufficient water but not enough in highly populated areas, especially during dry season.

If we don’t take care of using water, food production, like cultivating rice for one thing may become difficult. Much of the country’s water resources are threatened by misuse, pollution and effects of abnormal weather conditions like El Niño. Last December the President appointed Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes as water czar and placed the National Water Resources Board under him to unify the government’s water use and conservation program. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources would take care of water resources in the face of a supply shortage being experience by almost a million Metro Manila residents. We note the ongoing construction of Laiban Dam in Tanay, Rizal, which would eventually supply water to Metro Manila. Water is a life and death commodity that must be conserved and protected.
ROSES & THORNS By Alejandro R. Roces PhilStar

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