Monday, March 29, 2010

drought part 1

(c)AC Dimatatac

Magat Dam started its operation in 1983. It serves as a source of irrigation in Northern Luzon farmlands and as a Hydro power Plant that feeds up to 360 MW of power to the Metro Manila power grid. It's irrigation system is handled by the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and the hydro power part by the National Power Corporation(NAPOCOR). It was privatize last 2004 and bought by Aboitiz Power Corporation.

The Magat Dam is surrounded by three provinces: Isabela, Ifugao and Nueva Viscaya provinces which mostly consists of farmlands that rely heavily on the Dam's irrigation system. Due to El Nino which has brought severe drought since the last weeks of January 2010, the dam was forced to temporary shut down last March 10, 2010. It's water level is down to 150 meters which is already beyond the critical point of 160 meters. According to Mr. Macario Tamayo, one of the security guards in the Dam, this is below the normal levels during summer which is around 170-180 m. The water level is so low that it doesn't even reach the gradation level signs located in the spillway area. The tricycles (a three-wheeled vehicle) which plies the topmost part of the dam, can now go down to fetch people. They also erected a temporary food stand in the area which was normally covered by water.

Aside from the farmers, there are also floating houses heavily affected by the dry spell. These houses have fish cages that nurture fish such as bigheads and tilapias, which they sell in the market of Ramon and other nearby municipalities. Due to the low water level of the dam their livelihood has suffered drastically from the mud brought by the siltation and soil erosion from the lack of trees in the watershed area of the Dam.

According to Mrs. Cathy Tumundong, a resident of one of the floating houses for 9 years already and who also owns some of the fish cages, this is not the first time that they experienced drought in the Dam but she stressed that this was the most severe case. They had a hard time harvesting their cages because the fish which they nurture for about 4-5 months is now being contaminated by thick mud. They also experienced massive fish kills last February 2010. Despite the situation, she can still sell some of her fish for about 50 pesos per kilo but the price depends on the size of the catch. She added that some of the fisher folks have already transferred to other areas in hopes of a better livelihood. It was also noticeable that some of the houses no longer float because the drought has dried up a great portion of the area. She then emphasized that the problem is not just caused by El Nino, but because the Dam released a large amount of water during the Pepeng storm late last year. The authorities didn't want them to experience an overflow as what happened in Pangasinan, which is why they let out more than the water amount that should have been released. According to the authorities, however, no such thing occurred. We don’t know what really happened, but one thing’s for sure, Magat Dam and the people relying on it are in a very dangerous and delicate situation. As of now, the only solution for this is rain --- which is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

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