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Rough Cuts | COVID-19 endangering our water supply

It took years of haggling and public hearings before the Davao City Watershed Management Council (DCWMC) eventually decided to recommend to the City Sanggunian the approval of the request of Apo Agua Infrastructura, Inc. (AAII) and the Davao City Water District (DCWD) for exemption of their surface bulk water supply project.

We presumed then that the long process was because the project will tap the surface waters of the Tamugan river which cuts across the city’s watershed areas. We also felt safe concluding that the council’s recommendation is its manifestation of being convinced that the city needs more water sources other than its aquifer.

But of course the DCWMC recommendation did not make it automatic for the Davao City Sanggunian members to approve the ordinance granting the request for an exemption in the ban of infrastructure projects in the watershed area as provided for in the city’s Watershed Management Code.

It took another series of consultative hearings and debates in the Council plenary before the exemption was granted. Of course the approval necessitated the amendment of some provisions of the City’s Zoning Ordinance.

We know, as every Davaoeno knows, that time is of the essence as far as the bulk water supply project is concerned. The underground water in the Dumoy aquifer is slowly depleting. And there is no need for scientific research to confirm such a situation more strongly claimed by the DCWD.

We were certain that when the Sanggunian finally gave its imprimatur its members could have gotten inputs from the early settlers in the Dumoy area, specifically those who were the first to avail of housing units at the Dacoville subdivision.

During the initial years of the Dacoville occupancy anyone who drives a .5 or 1-inch diameter steel pipe in the ground were witnesses to water gushing out as if some supernatural forces were pumping it up.

We had the opportunity to live in that part of the city for about a year shortly before the 80’s and the problem experienced by all households then was too much pressure from the water flowing out of the faucets. We changed gaskets too often as these were busted in only a matter of weeks.
Today however, barely five decades ago, free flowing water in the Dumoy area and anywhere else in Davao City is already part of history.

In other words, with today’s development strides and the rate of the city’s annual population increase, the need for new water sources is getting more acute.

And it was indeed a huge relief to the anxiety of the people of Davao City when finally the bulk water project was started after almost four years.

Now construction of the water treatment plant, installation of facilities, laying of 60-inch diameter water transmission pipes, as well as other necessary infrastructure components are ongoing.

AAII, which is the project implementer, is bullish to meet its commitment of delivering to DCWD reservoirs the water that will satisfy to the maximum the needs of consumers especially in the second district of the city.

But what a tragedy for the project and for the water consumers; the coming of the Corona Virus Disease (CoVid 19) pandemic had forced the stoppage of work in all aspects of the implementation. The government, both local and national, has found it necessary to stop work on infrastructure projects, be these public or private, if these have no direct connection to the efforts of preventing the spread of the deadly CoViD 19.

Now the barangay roads in Calinan, Tugbok and Buhangin districts where the large water pipes are to be laid along the sides are empty of workers and equipment. Of course the roads’ construction remains because the cavernous pipes are lined end-to-end.

And like the plan to re-open the economy with only the subsiding of the virus infection as sole determinant of the appropriate schedule, the resumption of the work on the bulk water supply project will also depend on the CoViD 19’s continued prevalence in the country.

This only means that the completion of one very important project in the city is to be delayed further. For how long, again only the CoViD 19 can tell.

Meanwhile the searing heat of the summer season now starting to take its toll on the country could be speeding up much faster the depletion of the remaining water stored in the city’s aquifer. And with the residential, commercial and industrial consumers’ reckless abandon Davaoenos will just wake up one day, may even be soon, that there is hardly any water coming out of their faucets.

Could this grim scenario happen before the bulk water supply project becomes operational? Again the answer depends on CoViD 19.

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