"DIRI mi nagadula, nindot man diri kay bug-naw. Gusto pud namo magdagan-dagan sa tubig (This is where we play. It's beautiful here and cool. We also enjoy running in the water)," Ireen, eight years old, who was with her mother who was washing clothes in the river along with other residents in the area said.
Along with other kids her age, Ireen was playing at the bank of the Lipadas river which provided sustenance to their farming activities nearby and the primary source of water for those living within the area.
Today, larger families inhabit the Lipadas area where slowly, economic activities especially agro-industries flourish and had become the resident's source of income.
The increasing dependence on the natural resource within individual watersheds for household and economic activities poses a real threat not only to economic sustenance but also to the situation of children living within the watershed areas.
The unregulated water extraction, land use conflict, deforestation, improper cultivation of hilly lands, poor sewage and waste management and the limited government resources to enforce existing laws, rules and regulations also poses threat to our watersheds.
Glaring too is the over-extraction of groundwater from the Talomo Lipadas Dumoy well fields which has increased significantly in recent years due to the increased water demand by a rapidly growing population, and a steep rise in commercial and industrial activities. The over extraction of groundwater may cause salt water intrusion and bring about irreparable damage to the aquifer.
Despite its economic returns, there is inadequate information on water recharge, groundwater production, water levels, design and aquifer data from existing private water wells; spring discharge and other hydro geologic information. These information are important to establish the safe yield and basis for regulating drilling and pumping of water from the aquifer, identify additional potential areas for groundwater development and identify sources of potable water for upland communities.
There are seven watersheds in the city. The biggest is the Davao River Watershed with a total land area of 175,776 hectares covering the areas in Davao City, Bukidnon and North Cotabato.
The Talomo Lipadas Watersheds occupy just about 39,000 hectares or 12 percent of the total land area but its ground water supplies 95% of the distribution capacity of the Water District which serves 72% of the city's population.
The watersheds assume vital roles in maintaining ecological stability. It is also a major source and in many instances, exclusive sources of many raw materials for food, medicine, cosmetics and lumber manufacturing.
All of us depend on the watersheds for livelihood. Forest based industries continue to generate employment opportunities despite the declining rate of forest harvesting, irrigation of more than a million hectares of agricultural lands also relies on the watersheds for the uninterrupted supply of water. It is the lifeline of the city and its destruction poses a threat to the quality of life of the children.
As a complex natural system which easily responds to the alternation of any one of its components, an integrated approach is essential.
"The protection and management of our watershed will be a deliberate strategy that will involve everyone in the community," City Planning and Development Coordinator Mario Luis J. Jacinto said.
The city government through the City Planning and Development Office recently presented the preliminary result of the Terrain Analysis of the Davao City Watersheds Project. It was jointly undertaken by the City government and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.
The Terrain Analysis laid down the critical geologic information needed to fully understand the geophysical environment of the watersheds and provide reliable and comprehensive information on the current land uses, detailed infrastructure activities as well as the environmentally critical areas, including the geologic hazards and groundwater resources.
Among the recommendations are the declaration of 34,254 hectares identified as critical groundwater recharge zones as conservation areas, the strict imposition of the 20 meter easement and bank protection in agricultural lands and 40 meters easement and bank protection in forest lands.
The terrain analysis provided adequate information on the behavior of the watershed which is vital for policy makers, communities and investors in prioritizing and supporting activities that will ensure the optimum development of the resource potential of the areas.
It focused on the areas of Sibulan and Sirawan River, Lipadas River, Talomo River, Tamugan River, Cugan Creek and Suawan River which are subcatchment areas of the bigger Davao City watershed area
Based on the study, eight rock types and formations were mapped, geologic structures such as faults and lineaments were delineated and the geo-hazard assessment identified the areas that are naturally prone to flooding, erosion, landslide, liquefaction and/or volcanism.
It also identified surface and underground water resources, classified and characterized aquifers and delineated the critical groundwater recharge areas.
The Terrain Analysis report also recommended to limit the land use in areas most susceptible to erosion and landslide totaling 12,240 hectares to agricultural non-tillage activities and compatible uses.
The DCWD was also asked to set aside a specific amount out of its billed water income for a watershed management fund. On the other hand, small, medium and large companies operating in the watershed was asked to implement watershed management programs as part of its annual plan.
Jacinto said there is a need to ensure the long term sustainability and rehabilitation of the watersheds. This requires that watershed management programs are not be narrowly focused on soil conservation and forest protection alone.
"We are moving towards planning on the basis of watershed management units using the indicators on the State of the Children to ensure the improvement in the quality of their lives and their future," Jacinto emphasized. "Decision making is a must. There is a need for short term, high impact results that will complement a long term sustainable program that will respond to the needs of the populace especially women and children," he added.
Management and conservation of a watershed's natural resource base, and the orientation of technological and institutional change in such a manner as to ensure the attainment and continued satisfaction of human needs of the present and future generations.
Jacinto said the abuse of the watersheds is not only due to the lack of alternatives and options but also ignorance of the long term impact of economic activities to the natural resource. "It may be lack of information on the part of the residents utilizing the natural resources and a matter of profit and greed for those who improperly benefit from the resources," he pointed out.
Multi-sectoral initiatives have to be sustained to ensure that the utilization and development of watersheds natural resources are undertaken in a manner that is economically efficient where the benefits commensurate with the costs and which ensures the resources are used and managed in a way that will retain their potential to support future generations.
"Watershed protection should be the primary consideration of everyone," Jacinto said. "It cannot be left to the community alone nor to the NGOs or government alone. It must be a collective effort," he added.
The management of the watersheds means optimizing both the tangible and intangible economic benefits for the greatest possible number of people while ensuring, as far as the needs of sustainability of the watersheds natural resources permits, no one suffers economic hardships.
It is one effort that ensures that the utilization and development of watershed's resources is undertaken in a manner that will increase people's control over their lives, is compatible with the culture and values of the people affected by it and one which, maintains and strengthens community identify and ensures that the costs and benefits are shared equitably between and within communities and individual households.
The pro-active responses today will determine whether Ireen and other children like her will continue to enjoy the abundance of our natural resource or suffer from its seemingly inevitable destruction.
"The achievement of our goals will require decisive action, will encounter unforeseen eventualities and will not happen overnight. Fortunately or unfortunately, much of the success or failure of this endeavor is in our hands," Jacinto said.