Written by Jonathan Mayuga / Correspondent Business Mirror
EFFORTS to protect the La Mesa watershed got a much-needed boost with the creation of the La Mesa Watershed Multisectoral Management Council, the highest policymaking and oversight body for the protection and management of the watershed.
The La Mesa watershed, the source of Metro Manila’s potable-water supply, has been declared a “watershed reservation” by President Arroyo in 2007 through Presidential Proclamation 1336.
The council came about with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) Joint Memorandum Circular 2009-01 issued on July 21. It is headed by DENR Secretary Lito Atienza and includes Quezon City Mayor Feliciano Belmonte and a representative from a nongovernment organization as members.
“The formation of the body is an important step in the process of addressing the current conditions in the area to conserve its water sources,” said Atienza, noting that an earlier study found the watershed at risk from unfettered recreational use.
Atienza gets a two-year term as chairman with the administrator of the MWSS as cochairman.
The 2,700-hectare La Mesa watershed reservation is the holding reservoir for water from upstream watershed areas in Umiray, Quezon, and Angat and Ipo in Bulacan. It supplies most of Metro Manila’s water needs.
Atienza said a “vulnerability assessment” by the DENR-National Capital Region’s research division showed that some 10.12 hectares of the watershed are “geohazard areas” in terms of soil erosion (0.285 hectares), landslide (0.014 hectares), fire-prone (1.141 hectares), and biodiversity loss (8.685 hectares).
Atienza added these hazards will “be addressed as part of a comprehensive La Mesa Watershed Management Plan,” whose preparation is one of the council’s five core functions.
Based on the “profiling and characterization” of its flora and fauna, the area is host to some 520 species of flora, of which four are classified as “critically endangered” or facing certain extinction unless no protective intervention is taken, with 10 and eight species considered as vulnerable and endangered, respectively.
The study also showed at least 90 avifaunal or bird species thriving in the area, five of which are listed as “vulnerable” in the Convention of International Treaty of Endangered Species.
In January 2007 the Marine Environment and Resource Foundation Inc. (MERF), a nongovernment organization of professors and researchers from the University of the Philippines Diliman, concluded that human activities in the area should be kept to a minimum to prevent destruction “of a substantial portion of the La Mesa forest” and the weakening of the water quality of surface runoff and groundwater that will translate to lower quality water in the reservoir.