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Expert plans tool for improving river basin rehab

MANILA, April 30 — River Basin Control Office (RBCO) Executive Director Dr. Vicente Tuddao Jr. is coming up with a template for assessing the impact of interventions on rehabilitating the country's river basins to gauge effectiveness of what's been implemented so far, enabling government agencies concerned to improve efforts on addressing environmental degradation and related problems.

"We must have uniform standards for the assessment," he said.

He noted that the government needs a quality control tool such as the template since studies show river basins nationwide are already reeling from problems like deforestation, biodiversity loss, pollution, diminishing ground water resources, declining land productivity and disasters.

"Climate change will worsen conditions in the river basins," he warned.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration's climate change projections show wetter rainy seasons for the country in the coming decades.

"Increased rainfall, environmental degradation and pollution raise the risk for flooding," Tuddao noted.

River basin is a watershed of over 1,000 square kilometers and having topographic boundaries typically covering land within three or more provinces and two or more regions.

Data show the Philippines has 421 principal river basins.

The country's major river basins are Abulug, Abra, Cagayan, Agno, Pampanga, Pasig-Laguna, Bicol, Panay, Jalaur, Ilog-Hilabangan, Agusan, Tagoloan, Cagayan de Oro, Agus, Tagum Libuganon, Mindanao, Davao and Buayan-Malungan.

"Government is prioritizing to rehabilitate the major river basins as those areas have the highest potential uses but are suffering from declining carrying capacity and deteriorating life support systems," Tuddao said.

He said among interventions for the rehabilitation is increasing stream flow of rivers.

"Desilting can be done to unclog mouths of rivers," he noted.

Bio-eco interventions like using coco coir to stabilize river banks can be done also, he said.

He also said planting appropriate species can help address erosion and stabilize slopes.

Earlier, RBCO concluded work on the master plan for rehabilitating the Cagayan River Basin.

"Components of that plan include those on addressing flood hazards there, reforesting denuded areas and relocating informal settlers occupying banks of waterways," Tuddao said.

He noted that authorities will commence implementing the plan soon. (PNA) DCT/scs/CJT/mec

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