Group wants hydropower plant builder to observe watershed code

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 4 June) – Any action on a proposed power generation project should consider its effects on the city’s drinking water supply and environmental laws, an official of an environment group said.

Mary Ann Fuentes, Interface Development Interventions (IDIS) executive director, said Monday the proposal of San Lorenzo Builders to construct a 140-megawatt run-of-river hydropower plant should follow the Watershed Code, which prohibits infrastructure in watersheds that serve as sources of drinking water.

The plant will be built within the vicinity of the Tamugan River, according to Councilor Louie John Bonguyan, who heads the city council’s committee on energy.

“I want to see the design. I want to see if the development will need to divert water to achieve a necessary elevation so that their turbines will work,” Fuentes said.

She said the city should consider the effects of the project on drinking water supply along with its aim to help curb the energy shortage in Mindanao.

“The developers will also have to contend with the zoning ordinance, which identifies the city’s water resource areas. If you remember, there were some property developments that were disapproved because they were planning to build within [watershed areas],” she added.

Asked which alternative energy sources could be tapped to address the shortage, Fuentes said they are pushing for other sources like solar power.

She said if this was not possible, hydropower plants should be built in water bodies that don’t serve as sources of drinking water.

She said building a hydropower plant along Tamugan River could affect rehabilitation works along the water source, as well as past and present projects by the Davao City Water District.

Last week, Vice Mayor Paolo Z. Duterte told reporters the developers would have to convince the committee on energy about the technical details of the project.

He added that stakeholders, such as environment groups, would be in the best position to understand and explain the technical details of projects such as hydropower plants.

Bonguyan said more committee hearings will be scheduled on the concern raised by IDIS.

According to the Comprehensive Land Use Plan for 2013-2022 prepared by the City Planning and Development Office, water-extractive activities should be regulated to prevent over-extraction.

It also requires all structures built in water resource areas to have proper sanitation facilities especially for septage and wastewater, and prohibits “highly pollutive” activities.

In an earlier presentation to the city council, San Lorenzo Builders president and chief executive officer Oscar Violago said the development site would include Gumalang to Lamanan in Calinan.

The timeline includes a feasibility study that would begin this year and, if approved, commercial operations to begin in 2019 depending on the completion of the application process.

The topography, hydrology, and geology studies would also begin this year.