Henry Omaga-Diaz looks into the health and ecological dangers affecting the biggest water reservoirs in the country, namely Angat Dam, Ipo Dam, and Bustos Dam in this episode of Krusada.
Angat Dam is one of the 12 massive dams in the Philippines. Its service is critical, as 97% of Metro Manila’s domestic supply comes from Angat Dam. It is also the source of hydroelectric power being distributed by the National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR).
|Angat Dam. Photo courtesy of Ysabel Canlas
Angat Dam also supplies irrigation to 27,000 hectares of farmlands in Bulacan and Pampanga.
But despite the immense service it provides to people, it can also be a huge threat if not properly maintained or when a sudden earthquake strikes.
Director Rene Solidum of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) confirmed that Angat Dam in Bulacan sits near the West Valley Fault, an active fault 200 meters away from the main dike.
“In the joint work of PHIVOLCS and United Seismological Survey, West Valley has moved four times in the past 1,600 years. It has created an earthquake that was close to magnitude 7. But of course, these happened before and not after the dam was built,” Solidum asserted.
This is just one of the pressing safety concerns involving one of the country’s most important dams.
Timeworn Angat Dam?
For the residents of Bulacan, the construction and age of the dam are other pressing concerns that should be looked into.
|Behind the scenes: Henry Omaga-Diaz speaks about the safety concerns involving dams. Photo courtesy of Ysabel Canlas
Angat Dam is now 44 years old. The estimated lifespan of dams is only 50 years.
Governor Wilhelmino Alvarado of Bulacan believes that it is about time for major restoration.
“It was constructed during the time when there was no modern technology like retrofitting,” he said.
According to Gerry Esquivel, Administrator of Manila Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), if Angat Dam breaks down, the structure could submerge 20 towns in Bulacan, three towns in Pampanga and three cities in Metro Manila.
Water and electricity supply will also be cut in Metro Manila, while farmlands in Central Luzon will be completely flooded. Estimated cost of damages is P201 billion while fatalities could reach 30,000.
Meanwhile, Rodolfo German, General Manager of Angat Hydroelectric Power Plant, is still confident of Angat Dam's structure despite its age.
At present, there have been no movements seen at the fault line. Nonetheless, Malacañang has allotted P5.7 billion to fortify the structure of Angat Dam. It will take three years to complete its rehabilitation.
The smaller dam in Bustos, Bulacan shares the same problem as Angat Dam.
Farmers rely heavily on 45-year old Bustos Dam for irrigation of 26,791 hectares of land. Fourteen years have passed since its rubber gate was installed. According to the manufacturer, the gate is now in “50-50” condition. However, the government is still studying rehabilitation measures for Bustos Dam.
Chromium in Angat River
Aside from these hazards, a recent study conducted by La Consolacion University of the Philippines also revealed that the Calumpit and Plaridel, Bulacan areas of Angat River are polluted with chemical chromium, which is said to pose potential health risks to people who consume the water it supplies.
“One of the reasons why the most common cause of disease and death in Calumpit is lung disease is because of the increase in Chromium in the water system,” La Consolacion’s spokesperson said.
Possible sources of chromium could be the nearby industries or public transportation terminals around the river.
The proponents of the said study are now working with the municipality of Calumpit, Bulacan to address the issue.
Air date: June 28, 2012