BY ROGER M. BALANZA
Dabawenyos should heave a sigh of relief that their God-given Dumoy Aquifer, where they draw out their drinking water, would be left untouced by the proposed AboitizPower coal-fired power plant.
The company has taken a new tact in regards to its water need to cool down its cooling machines with water from surface sources and not from the underground water reservoir.
Actually this is a take-it-or-leave it condition imposed by Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte on AboitizPower.
Either the company siphon its water need from any other sources including canals but please not the underground reservoir.
Duterte has the ace in his sleeves, giving the power firm no way but to comply: If AboitizPower does not accept the condition, the Davao City Council would not reclassify its plant site into heavy industrial zone, which is mandated by the local zoning law and must be complied with if the company would like to see its project rise from Binugao.
So, AboitizPower and its manager Manuel Orig had to comply. So, all is well. Aboitiz can have its power-fired coal plant. And the Dabawenyos will have their Dumoy Aquifer untouched, thanks to their City Mayor Duterte.
As it is, AboitizPower now has the go-signal of the local government to proceed with the project due to the change in plan.
We had been strongly advocating against industries competing with Dabawenyos for the underground water sources knowing that depletion and the threat to the Dunoy Aquifer’s sustainability are not the only risks that Dabawenyos must have to face if AboitizPower is allowed to siphon off water for its cooling plant.
We in fact stretched the limit of our research, that led us to Dr. Shabaz Khan, the UNESCO water conservation expert who have been assisting local players in water resource conservation and management here.
And Dr. Khan provided us with a more deadly scenario if the Dumoy Aquifer suffers from uncontrolled withdrawal—intrusion of seawater into the aquifer.
Because of the timeliness of the article with the Dumoy Aquifer safe from seawater intrusion, we would like to reprint a piece we wrote about Dr. Khan and his warning against depleting the water source, thus:
A visiting United Nations expert on water resource management has warned of seawater intrusion into the city aquifer if the local government allows uncontrolled use of its groundwater reserve.
When that happens, it would be irreversible, said Dr. Shahbaz Khan, Chief of Section on Sustainable Water Resources Development and Management of the United Nation Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Khan’s warning comes as the Davao City local government is locked at the crossroad of whether or not to approve the controversial AboitizPower P25-billion, 300-MW Circulating Fluidized Bed Combustion (CFB) coal-fired power plant.
The Davao City Water District (DCWD), the city’s water utility firm which sources out supply from the reservoir located in the Dumoy-Toril area south of the city, said the water reserve has a lifespan of only 50 years if no alternative sources are found. The DCWD is developing a gravity-type surface water development project utilizing an upland river to supply half of the population in the city’s northern district. The project is aimed at easing pressure on the water reservoir already being depleted by several-intensive industries.
Khan is no stranger to Davao City, regularly coming here to assist local stakeholders in planning water resource management strategies through HELP Network Davao, which he help organized five years ago.
Khan bared the scary scenario of seawater intrusion into the underground water reservoir at the sideline of the 3-day Symposium on Water Resource Management and Hydro Hazard held in Davao City.
The symposium was organized by the HELP Davao Network headed by Davao City councilor Marissa Salvador-Abella, chair of the city council committee on environment. Kahn is an advisor to HELP Davao Network.
Once seawater seeps in, it would be irreversible, Khan told a group of water conservation stakeholders during a dinner composed of Davao City councilor Arnolfo Ricardo Cabling, former chair of the city council committee on environment and author of the landmark Davao City Watershed Management, Protection and Conservation Ordinance, Abella, council committee on environment chair and members of HELP Network Davao.
Khan, offhand, told the group, the AboitizPower would pose greatest threat if it pumps out water from the groundwater reserve, the plant being located at the aquifer in the coastal area where seawater and fresh water meet.
Khan, an Australian of Pakistani descent, also heads the UNESCO includes the Water Education for Sustainable Development and Hydrology for Environment, Life and Policy (HELP), which advises UN member states on environmental and water management policies the Asia-Pacific and African regions.