Megadams: unuseful, destructive–WPN


Ten thousand families in nine barangays inhabited by the Dumagat and Remontado indigenous peoples stand to be affected by the impending revival of the New Centennial Water Source Project (NCWS) in Rizal and Quezon

In forums and activities held around international commemoration of people’s action for rivers and against large dams and in pursuit of the right to water, advocates including the Water for the People Network (WPN) called on the public to support the clamor ‘people’s control over water resources and services.’

Government and private sector proponents, including international financial institutions, promote large dams allegedly as a means of providing cheap energy and water supply to poor countries like the Philippines. But many Filipinos still lack access to basic utilities, said WPN. Millions of people in Metro Manila – with or without water connections – have insufficient yet expensive water supply. Some areas in the country especially Mindanao continue to experience intermittent power services while increasing power rates constantly loom, noted the group.

WPN observed that many large hydropower dams such as Ambuklao, Binga and Magat are in fact underused largely due to heavy siltation brought about by the dams’ enormity. For the same reason, the Pantabangan power plant and the San Roque Multipurpose Dam also produce only 6% and 27% of their rated capacities, respectively. These dams range from over 200-1,000 meters in length and are 100 to over 200 meters high, occupying sizeable areas of land.

Aside from failing to provide cheap and accessible utilities, WPN said, large dams have been destructive to communities, particularly those of farmers and indigenous peoples.

For instance, due to heavy rains from Typhoons Lando and Nona in 2015, water was released from the San Roque, Binga, Ambuklao, Ipo, Angat and Magat dams. This led to wide-scale flooding and wrought approximately Php13.8 billion in damages to livelihoods and properties.

Megadams displace human settlements and drive communities away from livelihood and income sources, WPN said. The construction of Pantabangan Dam, for example, displaced an entire town with 13,000 people, seven villages, and 8,100 hectares of land of which 4,000 were residential. The 500-hectare Ambuklao Dam that was constructed from 1952-1956 in Itogon, Benguet dislocated some 200 families. Binga Dam engulfed 150 hectares of ancestral lands of the Bugkalot and Ibaloi. The San Roque Dam submerged 4,000 hectares also of Ibaloi and Bugkalot ancestral domains and physically displaced 600-741 families. The Pulangi IV HEP meanwhile submerged 1,400 hectares of agricultural lands and displaced four barangays in the municipality of Maramag, Bukidnon.

Meanwhile, ten thousand families in nine barangays inhabited by the Dumagat and Remontado indigenous peoples stand to be affected by the impending revival of the New Centennial Water Source Project (NCWS) in Rizal and Quezon, which pertains to the Laiban Dam (that includes Kaliwa Dam), according to the Bigkis at Lakas ng mga Katutubo ng Timog Katagalugan (BALATIK). On the other hand, the 500-megawatt Wawa Pumped-Storage Hydro Power Project by Olympia Violago Water and Power Inc. threatens to displace six communities of indigenous peoples and settlers in Rodriguez and Antipolo, Rizal.

According to WPN, megadams have only served and profited international financial institutions (IFIs) like the World Bank, big foreign and local construction and power companies, and their government cohorts. It is high time for government to heed the call of the indigenous peoples, farmers and people’s rights advocates to suspend the construction of large dams, and to take hold of the energy and water sectors primarily for public rather than commercial benefit, the group said.

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