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City’s watershed woes to be tackled in summit

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is scheduled to report on the pollution levels of several bodies of water in the city, as stakeholders convene later this month to discuss the state of the city’s watersheds.

The summit is organized by the Davao River Basin Management Authority.

Lemuel Manalo, policy specialist at Interface Development Interventions (IDIS), told the TIMES in an interview that the agency is in the process of finalizing the data gathered from the city’s bodies of water.

IDIS, for its part, has begun its own collection of water samples in several bodies of water, especially upstream rivers, as early as this week.

Collection teams from different institutions are studying the effect of human habitation in areas that contribute to the city’s water supply for possible signs of contamination.

In the case of the IDIS study, the samples test the presence of fecal coliform and E. coli bacterial contamination from freshwater sources such as the Panigan-Tamugan Rivers.

The samples will be analyzed to provide policymakers and other stakeholders with a continuous stream of data.

The move appears to be in anticipation of the construction and eventual tapping of the body of water for the bulk water project of the Davao City Water District (DCWD) and the Aboitiz Equity Ventures.

Representatives from the joint venture said that the project is still awaiting the conversion of a portion of the property from agricultural to light industrial, under allowable use permissions in the Watershed Code and the Comprehensive Land Use Plan.

Lawyer Mark Penalver, IDIS policy advocacy specialist, said the presence of quarry sites could contribute to the degradation of the Davao River. IDIS has recommended mitigating measures in areas where quarry sites are present such as rehabilitation of the riverbanks and planting of trees in the highlands of the city.

Last May 22, the city council quashed the motion for application for allowable use of five sand and gravel quarry and earthfill quarries.

Proponent Councilor Elias Lopez, chair of the Housing, Rural and Urban Development Board, presented for approval five applications for quarry permits that had passed the City Development Council Executive Committee and the Local Zoning Board of Adjustment and Appeals.

Councilor Danilo Dayanghirang, who called for a vote during the presentation of the first quarry permit application, said during the zoning board’s deliberations, there were already issues raised regarding the problem of bad roads to the quarry site and the collection of taxes to those who continue to transport sand and gravel at night when there is no one to monitor the transactions.

Penalver said that IDIS is very vigilant in monitoring the quarrying in the Davao River even if they are also aware that these extractive activities are needed for the city’s infrastructure development. He said the barangays have the lead role in ensuring that the environment is protected and in monitoring quarry operations in their community. (with reports from Amalia B. Cabusao)

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