“If there are trees, there’s water” – Mayor Lazatin

MEASURES TO suppress the COVID-19 pandemic, including hand-washing, self-isolating, home quarantines and lockdowns assume that households in towns and cities have sustainable access to acceptable amounts of adequate quality water. However, water insecurity is increasing, with the poorest and most vulnerable communities at risk.

Water demand is increasing at approximately 1% per annum. Ensuring sustainable access to adequate quality water for human health is challenging for local government units (LGUs) as good water governance will be needed to sustain adequate supply of quality water to fight and prevent future pandemics. Good water governance will be needed to ensure an adequate supply of adequate quality water to fight and prevent future pandemics.

Aside from tree-planting, LGUs can establish wastewater treatment for reuse to provide an additional source of water, whereas resource recovery from wastewater can contribute to the sustainability of water supply and sanitation systems and the water utilities operating them. Watershed restoration and protection through improved land management can increase urban water security and have benefits for rural communities. Urban water resilience often depends on watersheds upstream where there are already pre-existing local community users. Hence, this can lead to reduced water availability for cities like Angeles City, aggravate urban flooding, and increase treatment and supply costs for urban water.

As part of Mayor Carmelo “Pogi” Lazatin, Jr.’s kick-off campaign for the city’s environment preservation, the city government has spearheaded a tree planting activity at the Angeles City Watershed in Barangay Sapangbato recently. Dubbed as “Bayanihan sa Tubig-Kanlungan,” is a rehabilitation project in partnership with Abacan River Angeles Watershed Advocacy Council Inc (ARAW-ACI) led by President Renato “Abong” Tayag and Vice President Sonny Dobles.

Some 1,000 seedlings of narra, molave, dau, poay, and assorted fruit-bearing trees were provided by the city government and planted in the vicinity of the watershed.

“We will stay committed to our promise of pushing programs for the protection and preservation of our environment. Citizens and communities’ role in water management should be acknowledged and mechanisms must be put in place for them to have a say in decision-making,” Lazatin said. The program, he added, involves non-government and civic organizations or private participation.

Participants are volunteer-employees from the City Environment and Natural Resources Office, City Engineer’s Office, City College of Angeles, CEO-Environment Management System, Public Employment Services Office, and Angeles City Traffic Development Office, barangay officials, BJMP, GOCCs like the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), Clark International Airport Corporation (CIAC), private groups, companies and institutions Converge ICT Solutions, Pampanga Press Club, Kapanalig Angeles Inc., De La Salle University Alumni Association, Philippine Academy of Family Physicians, Soliman EC, MRDL Enterprises, ROMAC Group, WIDUS Foundation, Holy Angel University, ACCERT Pampanga, Hotels and Restaurants Association in Pampanga, Toyota Marquee, Kaunlaran sa Kabundakan Kooperatiba, at ARAW-ACI Youth.

Lazatin said his office is continuously coordinating with BCDA — and tapped Clark International Airport Corp. Vice President IC Calaguas, also his Chief Adviser and Tactician — to entrust the stewardship of the 560-hectare watershed to the city government. In principle, Lazatin added, BCDA officials have agreed and promised them that the city will protect the area. Borrowing the words of Dennis Hall, Lazatin said, “We have not inherited the land from our fathers, we have borrowed it from our children.”

CENRO Officer-in-Charge Archimedes Lazatin meanwhile said that the series of tree planting activities will be done until August, as a long-term sustainable advocacy of the city government. According to him, the monitoring for these planted trees will be regular, as an early intervention to the imminent water shortage in 2030, as experts foresee.

Women and girls, poor households, marginalised groups and persons with disabilities often already experience inequalities in terms of access to water and water for livelihoods. It can be recalled that in March 2021, as part of the celebration of Women’s Month, 113 female city hall employees and volunteers led by Vice Mayor Vicky Vega-Cabigting, Lazatin’s Executive Assistant IV Reina Manuel and Gender and Development Officer Mina Cabiles planted 600 trees at the watershed.

Because of the city’s water sustainability program, we can develop the watershed. Let us protect and revive the watershed so that more water would flow again and prevent it from drying up. Moreover, there are proposals for agri-business and tourism to refuel the local economy and uplift the lives of the stakeholders in the vicinity amid the pandemic.

Reduce stormwater run-off and flooding. Trees intercept rainfall in their canopy, reducing the amount of rain that reaches the ground.

Improve regional air quality. Trees absorb pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, and particulate matter from the atmosphere. Trees reduce air temperature, which reduces formation of pollutants that are temperature dependent, such as ozone.

Reduce stream channel erosion. Trees growing along a stream bank prevent erosion by stabilizing the soil with root systems and the addition of organic matter. Trees prevent erosion of sediment by stabilizing the soil, and by substantially dispersing raindrop energy.

Improve soil and water quality. Trees take up stormwater pollutants such as nitrogen from soil and groundwater. Certain tree species break down pollutants commonly found in urban soils, groundwater, and run-off, such as metals, pesticides and solvents.

Provide habitat for terrestrial and aquatic wildlife. Forests (and even single trees) provide habitat for wildlife in the form of food supply, interior breeding areas, and migratory corridors. Streamside forests provide habitat in the form of leaf litter and large woody debris, for fish and other aquatic species.

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