The Kaliwa Dam Project
Proposed to address concerns for potable water demands and catalyze an increased water supply in the constantly growing populous metropolis – Metro Manila, the PhP 12.2 Billion New Centennial Water Source (NCWS), or most commonly known as The Kaliwa Dam Project, was proposed based on an integrated two-dam system set forth to complete its construction on mid-2026. The 63-meter-high reservoir, equivalent to a 21-story building, is said to hold an initial discharge capacity of 600 million liters per day (MLD), and would be built alongside a 27.7-kilometer Water Conveyance Tunnel with a 2,400 MLD capacity both designed to secure enough water supply in the country’s economic hotspots located in the National Capital Region, primarily Metro Manila.
It is indisputable how water is a definite need among people to remain physiologically intact; however, to execute such initiative at the expense of what's left in our environmental barricade is obscure and insensitive. When one rises, one falls. Where one thrives, one dissipates. Yes, we live, but at what cost? Yes, we thrive, but at what expense?
Sierra Madre: A Home, A Shelter, A Refuge
Sierra Madre, the Philippines’ largest remaining rainforest, is home to hundreds and thousands of animal and plant species. Being a vastly rich and biodiverse area, it serves as a habitat for the country’s most prominent species which includes the giant golden-green sea turtle, golden-crowned flying fox, and our critically endangered Philippine Eagle.
The Kaliwa Watershed Forest Reserve, declared as a forest reserve by Proclamation No. 573, houses various threatened wildlife including the Philippine Warty Pig (Sus philippensis), the Vulnerable Northern Rufous Hornbill (Buceros hydrocorax), and more restricted-range birds endemic to the country. Moreover, its 12, 147 hectares of residual forests contain around 172 flora species, accounting to 39 endemic species, 17 of which are predisposed to extinction including the endangered and rare Rafflesia manillana, Jade vine, and other critically endangered tree species which includes the Red Lauan (Shorea negrosensis), White Lauan (Shorea contorta), Mayapis (Shorea palosapis), Bagtikan (Parashorea malaanonan), and Dungon (Heriteria sylvatica). However, the mountains are not just a home for the wildlife, it’s also a refuge for the people. The respectable mountain range has served and protected the islands of Luzon for millennia as its slopes and curves mitigate strong winds, and its rich forests absorb heavy rains.
The Sierra Madre feeds, protects, and nourishes. It is a home, a shelter, and a refuge.
ConDAMnation: An Environmental Annihilation
The Kaliwa Dam Project is said to cover portions of Tanay, Antipolo, Teresa of Rizal Province, and Gen Nakar and Infanta of Quezon Province. It directly affects the Kaliwa Watershed in the Sierra Madre mountain range.
The construction of this multi-billion infrastructure project will desolate the home of thousands of plant and animal species. While the initiative's purpose is to meet the country’s basic needs and prevent discrepancies in the water volume-population ratio, the extent of its environmental compromisation is not reasonable. The project has been classified as an Environmentally Critical Project (ECP) as it runs through the Sierra Madre mountain range, particularly in an area within the National and Wildlife Sanctuary (NPWS) under Presidential Proclamation No. 1636. Full operation of the dam entails large-scale, permanent, and irreversible ecological changes. Its destruction will displace thousands of animal and plant species. This will severely disrupt the ecosystem and biodiversity of the only remaining rainforest in the country.
Deforestation predisposes heavy landslides and flooding to surrounding areas and puts thousands of people at risk, especially during peak rainy seasons and typhoons. This will result to the loss of precious ecological values in agricultural areas, wild lands, and wildlife habitats. Moreover, the forests in this protected sanctuary provide paramount services crucial for human survival — oxygen and water.
Exploring Alternative Options
Building a dam isn’t the only viable option for increasing the water supply to meet the demands of the growing population. Various ways have been adopted by several other countries in addressing similar kinds of problem. Such alternative solutions suggested by Haribon – a nature conservation organization in the Philippines – include:
“The Green Machine”, an innovative wastewater management involving wastewater recycling adopted by Singapore to supply water to their whole country.
Another would be to employ restoration, protection, and rehabilitation of watersheds and upgrading already existing dams to maximize their full capacity. On the other hand, we can also strengthen our water conservation policies.
To irreversibly destroy this rich and natural ecosystem and replace it with a manmade infrastructure is a wrong move. Nature is irreplaceable. It endures and lasts a lifetime. Our mountains are invaluable. Our wildlife is priceless. Sierra Madre is unequaled. Let us stand strong, hand in hand, and fight for the last green bastion of the land.
Like the protection Sierra Madre has bestowed upon us, we shall also extend the same courtesy to her. So as long as she exists, we are provided.