By ALMA B. SINUMLAG
BAGUIO CITY — As opposed to the statements of the SN Power Aboitiz that the rehabilitation of the Ambuklao Dam in Bokod, Benguet will mitigate the effects of Climate Change, the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) here said otherwise.
The said power corporation in their launching of the recommissioned dam told the media and the community that the rehabilitation will be a great help in mitigating the effects of Climate Change because the energy that will be generated will be clean and renewable. However, Santos Mero, Deputy Secretary General of CPA said in an interview that building dams and re-opening decommissioned dams are false mitigation programs to the said global crisis.
“Does mitigation of Climate Change mean to submerge communities and their livelihood?” he asked citing the experiences of the Cordillera people relative to Binga and Ambuklao dams of Benguet. Their fellow Ibalois he said were displaced and relocated themselves on their own, hardly adapting to the ways of living in foreign lands due to the construction of the said dams.
“Dayta duwa nga dam ket simbolo to panang-agaw ti gobyerno ti ancestral land dagiti Ibaloi,” (The two dams are symbol of government’s ancestral land grabbing to the Ibaloi’s) he added.
This response to Climate Change, he added, is profit driven. Norway (partner of SNAP in Ambuklao rehabilitation) Mero said has invested millions of money to fund renewable energy plants as their payment in their failure to cut carbon emissions as stated in the Kyoto Protocol.
These energy plants like dams, he said, will be constructed in the 3rd world countries that he stressed are the most vulnerable to the effects of Climate Change. In return, he added, they (Norway) will gain big time from the said investment. Instead of cutting their carbon emissions which he said is the best way to solve the crisis, 1st world counties he added are taking advantage of the carbon trading to earn more profit.
The question of sustainability
On the other hand, Mero questioned the sustainability of the hydro-electric power plant. The company he said only rehabilitated the powerhouse in order for the dam to be operational but the dam itself was not rehabilitated. “Siltation in the dam continues,” he said attributing it to the pressure of the water that leads to erosion of the mountains. Also, dams he further said serves as the catch basin of mine tailings.
With the growing number of mining applications in Benguet, he said, the plant will eventually give up because of silt which was one of the reasons why it was decommissioned in 1999. The National Power Corporation can hardly afford the maintenance.
Further, with the regular disasters that the country is experiencing, he pointed out that anytime, the dam will collapse considering that it is already old. He even termed it as a “sleeping monster” that when it wakes up, it will only cause more disasters. Anything bad that can happen in the future because of recommissioning the said dam will only add to the people of Bokod’s history of despair.
Mero iterated that dams are never a solution to Climate Change. “While its true in science that it is a clean and renewable energy, there are a lot of alternatives like that we can be assured of their sustainability like wind mills solar and others,” he said.
Meanwhile, during the inauguration of Ambuklao dam in Bokod on October 27, Congressman Ronald Cosalan challenged SNAP on the sustainability of the dam and stressed that the said dam is a history of pride and despair to the people of Bokod and he hoped that the people’s experience with the rehabilitated dam will be a pleasant one.
He also told the people that the entry of the company is only for the power plant. “We are still the host community, we still own the river, and the spillway and SNAP is our guest,” he said.
Dams opposition in the global arena
Moreover, Mero said, there are oppositions to dams even in the international arena. He cited the International Rivers Network that is based in the United States working to protect rivers and the communities.
They are against the construction of new dams and are calling for decommissioning existing dams.
“Rivers are vital to sustaining all life on earth. We seek a world where healthy rivers and the rights of local communities are valued and protected. We envision a world where water and energy needs are met without degrading nature or increasing poverty, and where people have the right to participate in decisions that affect their lives,” International Rivers’ vision posted in their website.
Moreover, in their website, it was stated that small scale, decentralized and renewable are essential in meeting water and energy needs, alleviating poverty and protecting the planet. # nordis.net