Dams in the news in wake of floods

Two dams were in the news last week – or  rather, an old established dam in Isabela and a proposed one in Quezon Province.

The  Magat  Dam in the Magat River, the largest tributary of the Cagayan River, the longest river  in the Philippines,  was built in 1975-1982 primarily for irrigation, flood control, and power generation  One of Asia’s biggest dams today, it irrigates  about 85,000 hectares of agricultural land in Isabela and Cagayan today.

When  super-typhoon Ulysses lashed Luzon last November 11-12, its  rains fell  all over Northern, Central, and Southern Luzon, and the Bicol region.  The biggest floods were in Isabela and Cagayan, along  the route of the Cagayan  river.

After the flood waters subsided, the  people started returning to their homes,  Then Magat Dam officials  found they had to  release  some of the huge volume of water which now threatened the  dam’s structure.  This caused a new flood in the downstream  areas,   and people  demanded an investigation into the actions of the dam officials.

Meanwhile,  in Quezon Province, residents of Real. Infanta, and General Nakar,  and the indigenous communities in the area  renewed their opposition to the proposed construction of the P12-billion Kaliwa  Dam  in their area  in a meeting with   Gov. Danilo Suarez, citing the harm to the environment and to the people of the area .

The Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Quezon, led by Vice Gov. Samuel Nantes, passed a resolution  authorizing the governor to take all steps needed to stop the  proposed dam. It would  inundate a wide area  of the province, including the traditional  lands of the indigenous people.

Bishop Bernardino Cortez of the Catholic Church joined the opposition. Citing the geography of the area, he said, “Our very survival depends on  the care  of our mountains, forests, rivers, protection of our mangroves and seashores.“

At the back of everyone’s mind was the flooding caused by Magat  Dam’s  release of excessive water    last  November,  hitting the towns just when they thought the danger was all  over.  Magat Dam released more water last weekend, causing new floods, as  rains continued to fall.  It could well also happen to Quezon  if  the Kaliwa Dam is built  in their midst.