Tubig Bayranan Pagaagay sa Kaugmaran: Water Levy and the San Carlos Watershed Management Project
These days, clean water is becoming more expensive than fuel; a situation brought about by the pollution and degradation of watershed areas. And if something is not done to reverse the trend, clean water could soon become scarce. But the rehabilitation of watershed areas is also costly, and raising funds could prove difficult. Then again, it may not be as difficult if the whole community pitches in as demonstrated by the San Carlos City government and its residents.
Large portions of San Carlos City in Negros Occidental are critical watersheds which cover 5,017 hectares. These are the main water sources that supply both domestic and agricultural consumers in and around the city. To address denudation of the watershed areas, the city government designed a Watershed Development and Rehabilitation Project using an innovative financing scheme to rehabilitate the denuded watersheds. The local government convinced its constituents to pay a water levy of seventy five centavos per cubic meter of water that they consume. The water levy generates 1.2 million pesos annually, which goes to a Trust Fund that is managed by the San Carlos Development Board . This Trust Fund, together with additional contributions by other organizations and stakeholders, guarantees resource availability for future use and expansion purposes and is being used as leverage to get additional funding. This unique system for raising financial resources for rehabilitation sets apart this local government initiative.
Unique to the WDRP is the consortium of four multi-sectoral organizations—i.e. Genesys Foundation, JF Ledesma Foundation, Inc., Multi-Sectoral Alliance for Development and the SCDB—that jointly manage and implement the project. These organizations oversee nursery planting and maintenance, capacity-building on agro-forestry and livelihood programs as well as community organizing. Policy and technical support is further provided by the DENR and the German Development Service. These organizations contribute their specific expertise to attain a holistic approach to sustainable development.
The project employed an integrated forest land use approach that determined type of reforestation and agricultural activity based on land slope. Specific areas are designated for settlement, livestock, fruit-bearing plants, production forest, and protection forest. The strategy balances the needs of the communities with conservation concerns.
Started in 2005, the project has brought tangible results. To date, a total of 211,348 trees have been planted. Fourteen species were used for diversity. Some were short rotation species for fuel and charcoal while others were long rotation species for timber production. Public acceptance of the project has also been increasing. Some landowners and corporations even set aside a portion of their lands for protection forest. A total of 140.8 hectares of private lands are now also covered by the project.
Communities living within the watershed areas were provided with livelihood opportunities (such as livestock and agricultural production) to ensure that they would not use critical environmental areas for economic activities such as illegal logging, unsustainable charcoal production and shifting cultivation on steep slopes. The estimated income of the farmers from livestock and agricultural production is PhP60,000.00 annually. The communities would also be able to earn approximately PhP1 million in labor payments for three years of planting operations and nursery maintenance.
People’s involvement, particularly the formation of the Community Watershed Management Association, is not just an issue of participation and empowerment but primarily of sustainability. This ensures that the community will maintain and take care of the watershed long after the project has been phased out.
There is now an ongoing effort to replicate the San Carlos Watershed Management and Development Project on a wider scale, which would involve 11 cities and municipalities in Negros. This has led to the formation of the Northern Negros Forest Reserve Management Council where the eleven LGUs agreed to share resources and strategies. With this development, Negrenses are now pretty well assured of clean water for a long, long time.