November 26, 2004

Cordillera: Water Scarcity deals with Social Issues too

Geographical disparities: Asia has 60 percent of the worlds population but only has 36 percent of global freshwater resources
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Water for human consumption is inherently scarce. While 75 percent of the earth is made up of water, only 2 percent is freshwater and 98 percent is salt water, and of this freshwater, only 1 percent is available for human consumption. The rest is locked up in permanent snow cover and glaciers.

Then there are the geographical disparities. Asia has 60 percent of the world’s population but only has 36 percent of global freshwater resources, while South America only accounts for 6 percent of global population but accounts for 26 percent of world’s freshwater resources.

Arnold Padilla, senior researcher of Ibon Foundation, presented these facts during the Water for the People Northern Luzon Convention held here from November 24 to 26.

But Padilla added that water scarcity is more an illusion as it is a reality. Disparity, he said, is more related to social classes and among countries, touching on poverty issues and inequity of wealth distribution.

He cited for example that among those in the agricultural sector, poor farmers have problems with irrigation while plantation owners have well-structured water supply systems.

First-world countries can give their citizens water, while developing countries like the Philippines have to contend with the scarcity compounded by problems brought about by pollution, privatization and control of water resources by big companies.

“Two out of five global rural populations do not have access to safe drinking water. In the country, three out of 10 of the poorest 40 percent of Filipino families do not have access to safe drinking water,” Padilla said.

These observations are starkly evident in Northern Luzon. All the major rivers are silted because of several factors. Joan Carling, chairperson of the Cordillera People’s Alliance, said in a press statement that the Rio Grande de Cagayan, is silted because of massive logging and commercial farming which have deforested the watersheds of the Agno and Abra rivers.

Large mining operations are the main cause of sedimentation of these rivers. Carling said that toxins from the mine tailing dams have also poisoned these waters that used to be the source of domestic and irrigation water.

Hydropower and irrigation dams on the Agno, Rio Chico de Cagayan and the Magat Rivers interfere with the natural flow of the water.

Carling said that while Northern Luzon is still abundant with water, 25 percent of the Cordillera population and 88 percent of the Ilocos population do not have water piped to their homes.



Source: ABC CBN