Water is an essential element to our everyday existence. Its role is vital in the sustenance of all life forms, as well as in agricultural, industrial, households, recreational and environmental activities. As population continues to rise, so does the demand for fresh water also increases. Water is a major factor shaping the natural environment. It has a long-term influence on the vegetation, fauna, and shape of the landscape and on various ecosystems.
Water is key to food security. Crops and livestock need water to grow. Agriculture requires large quantities of water for irrigation and of good quality for various production processes. The impacts of climate change on the global hydrological cycle are expected to vary the patterns of demand and supply of water for agriculture – the dominant user of freshwater.
Water has not been clearly stated as a human right though it sits at the very essence of the right to life and other fundamental human rights. Recognizing water as a human right would provide more effective protection. A human right to water can help set priorities for water policy to ensure that no person may be deprived of enough, good-quality water to satisfy basic needs.
The Philippines is blessed with abundant natural resources and some of the world's greatest Megadiverse countries. One of this is the rich water resources. When some of the world’s populations are dying because of the lack of water, a lot of our water resources in the Philippines flow freely and remained untapped.
This prompted the Provincial Government of Negros Occidental in the Philippines to take action through its Provincial Environment Management Office to consider the presence of water springs at Sitio Maanlod, Brgy. Nataban, San Carlos City that flow freely and remained untapped for the local communities’ domestic and agricultural use.
Vision, Mission and Mandate
The Provincial Government of Negros Occidental carries out the responsibility of community-based forestry projects which include the Integrated Social Forestry Program implementation through the Provincial Environment Management Office. The Provincial Government of Negros Occidental believes that by addressing the needs of local communities, they themselves will join hands to protect and manage the natural resources in their midst.
Anchored on its vision of “Negros - with a healthy environment where empowered communities enjoy sustainable economic growth based on equity,” the Provincial Environment Management Office, a full department of the Province of Negros Occidental, pursues its mission in partnership with local government units and other stakeholders to lead in the restoration of ecological balance through sustainable reforestation, coastal resources management, climate change mitigation and adaption, provision of livelihood opportunities for food security, technology transfer, regulated mineral exploitation, environment protection and education to uplift the living condition of every Negrense.
These vision and mission are consistent with the Negros First Agenda of the Governor Alfredo G. Maranon, Jr. to sustain programs for the conservation, protection and rehabilitation of the environment and natural resources of the province.
Thus, the Provincial Environment Management Office takes the lead in uplifting the socio-economic status and well-being of the beneficiaries of the Integrated Social Forestry Program at Brgy. Nataban, San Carlos City by making them partners and co-stewards of the natural resources found in their area.
Among the natural resources found at the Integrated Social Forestry area of Sitio Maanlod, Brgy. Nataban, San Carlos City are water springs. A spring maybe defined as a place where natural outflow of groundwater occurs and it is usually found in mountainous or hilly terrain.
In the year 2010, the Provincial Government through the Provincial Environment Management Office released One Hundred Thousand (Php 100,000) Pesos for the Spring Development Program of the Lower Nataban Upland Farmer’s Association, Inc., a People’s Organization assisted by the Provincial Environment Management Office, the members of which are the Integrated Social Forestry Program beneficiaries at Brgy. Nataban, San Carlos City.
Beneficiaries/Partner People Organization
The Spring Development Program is a collaborative effort of the Provincial Government of Negros Occidental, the City Government of San Carlos City and the Lower Nataban Upland Farmer’s Association. The two (2) local government units are responsible for the water impounding facilities, while the People's Organization for the maintenance and reforestation activities as counterpart.
The One Hundred Thousand Pesos from the Provincial Government was spent for the building of two (2) water tanks to hold the water coming from the water springs, while the City Government provided for the water pipes that measures a total of six (6) kilometers from the water springs to the households of the local communities, and the members of the Lower Nataban Upland Farmer’s Association are responsible for the manual labor in the construction of the water tanks and lining of the water pipes to reach the local communities in the three (3) sitios namely, Maragoos, Villarante and Maanlod, all in Brgy. Nataban, San Carlos City.
Program Development Results
Gaps, Impacts and Sustainability (Challenges, Success Factors - Health, Socio - Economic, etc.)
The areas were the water springs are located at Sitio Maanlod, Brgy. Nataban, San Carlos City has a topographical characteristics ranging from flat to rolling to steeper slopes. The average elevation ranges from 400-700 feet above sea level. Before the Spring Development Program, the soil is sandy to clay in the lower portion and rocky in the hilly portion and only a few trees subsist in the area. A large portion is cogonal and used as a pasture land for animals. The local people have to travel almost six (6) kilometers in the morning to reach the water springs to take a bath and wash their clothes and travel back in the afternoon to their homes to bring water to drink as well as for the household needs of their family. They rely mostly on rains to water their plants and crops.
Since the Spring Development Program of the Provincial Government through the Provincial Environment Management Office was implemented the following gaps were addressed:
(a) Inaccessibility of water supply, both for domestic and agricultural uses to the local communities;
(b) Presence of water borne diseases; and
(c) Lack of trees surrounding the springs to sustain the water source underground.
At present, with the local communities’ easy access to safe and potable drinking water, they are keener on the practice of good hygiene and are free from gastrointestinal diseases associated with lack of or unsafe water supply. The soils are healthier now with almost one hundred (100) hectares planted by the Certificate of Stewardship Contract holders under the Integrated Social Forestry Program with endemic trees like Molave (Vitex parviflora), Bakan (Litsea philippinensis) and Narra (Pterocarpus indicus) surrounding the water springs. The local people also grow fruit trees; mango trees thrive well in the area and are a good source of income to the local communities who are mostly farmers. Major crops planted are rice, corn and bananas. They also grow vegetables which they sell along with the fruits and other crops to the city proper, which is about eight (8) kilometers from their area.
The impacts of the Spring Development Program to the local communities are the following:
- Optimized and made accessible the use of water springs for domestic and agricultural needs by the local communities.
- Uplifted the socio-economic status and improved the well-being of the one hundred sixty-five (165) families who are holders of Certificate of Stewardship Contracts under the Integrated Social Forestry Program living in the three (3) sitios namely, Maanlod, Maragoos and Villarante of Brgy. Nataban, San Carlos City covered by the Spring Development Program.
- Potable water supply available which resulted to reduce incidence of water borne diseases.
- Sustained the quantity and quality of water resource, which is the water springs, through reforestation of one hundred (100) hectares surrounding the water springs by the members under the Integrated Social Forestry Program, and in effect is working to mitigate the effect of climate change and global warming.
- Developed strong partnership among local communities, the City Government and the Provincial Government by collectively gathering them and decide for a collaborative effort on the Spring Development Program in particular, and in the conservation, protection and rehabilitation of natural resources found in their area in general.
The Spring Development Program continues to benefit one hundred sixty-five (165) families, who are holders of the Certificate of Stewardship Contracts under the Integrated Social Forestry Program for three (3) years now. The beneficiaries who are mostly farmers use the water for their domestic and agricultural needs.
The Lower Nataban Upland Farmers Association, Inc. is managing the program and currently instituting payment mechanisms for water use and maintenance of facilities to ensure sustainability of the program.
To date, a total of one hundred (100) hectares surrounding the springs have been planted with endemic and fruit trees by the members of the Lower Nataban Upland Farmers Association, Inc. to ensure the continuous supply of water from the springs for their domestic and agricultural needs, mitigate the effects of climate change and reduce global warming.
There are more water springs at Sitio Maanlod, Brgy. Nataban with water output about 20 liters per second that flows freely and are left untapped. These water springs are potential to serve other sitios in the vicinity, if some more funds could be provided for the construction of additional impounding tanks and water pipes to tap the water flowing in the springs to make accessible to the local people for domestic and agricultural use.
Moreover, what is beneficial with Spring Development Program is that the local communities became aware of the importance of conserving, protecting and rehabilitating our natural resources, in this case the water, which is a very precious resource and the source of life.
In summary, surface water sources can be developed and tapped for domestic and agricultural uses but special care must be taken to ensure the quantity and quality of the water. The City Health Office of San Carlos City regularly monitors the quality of water from the springs to make sure that it is safe and potable. Springs generally offer the best alternative in terms of cost, water quality and maintenance. Spring water also is cool and fresh-tasting and very acceptable to the users and when tapped it can now be diverted and saved for domestic and agricultural uses.
Certainly, the Provincial Environment Management Office holds true to its vision of “Negros - with a healthy environment where empowered communities enjoy sustainable economic growth based on equity.”
References and Further Readings:
(a) Climate Change, Water and food Security by Hugh Turral, FAO Consultant – Jacob Burke and Jean-Marc Faures, FAO Land and Water Division
(b) IUCN Environmental Policy and Law Paper No. 51 - Water as a Human Right? By John Scanlon, Angela Cassar and Noemi Nemes
(c) Website of Negros Occidental, Philippines: http://www.negros-occ.gov.ph
(d) Department of the Environment and Natural Resources - Forest Management Bureau Primers (http://forestry.denr.gov.ph/primer.htm)