Home Opinion Columns Damn the dam

Damn the dam


(Editors note: The following is an excerpt from the Author’s novel, Cordillera Red Rising, published with Amazon.com)

Noel started to address the sea of aktibistas.

“I come to you today, brothers and sisters in the struggle, with a grim message regarding our Igorot brothers and sisters in the hinterlands of the Cordilleras,” Noel said atop the jeepney. He held the microphone so as the piece almost touched his kernel-sized nose. He appeared like a barrel with his belly button almost popping out of his black t-shirt.

He pushed his spectacles that slid down the ridge of his nose as he continued, veering down at the multitude of aktibistas, “This issue affects us all, but it affects the Igorots more. And, well, you may say it is just about the Igorots. Who cares about them anyway?

“If you did not care about them before, my brothers and sisters, I beg you, care for them now for your own sake. What would happen to them reflects how our gobierno could be inconsiderate to our needs as a nation to serve their selfish inhuman interests and that of their foreign masters at our expense.”

He paused and repositioned his spectacles.

“Recently, under the guise of development, the gobierno started to construct a series of hydroelectric dams along the Arak-O River in the hinterland…we are not against development…we should strive for development, but fundamental questions must be answered before development should ensue. The basic question is for whom should development be for? And if sacrifices have to be made, are they necessary? Benefits from the dam projects are not clearly defined…benefits forwarded are in their feasibility studies which cower behind allusions of being enormous, incomparable, a big leap for us all…for us all?

“Does all here include at least 100,000 Igorots who would be displaced when the dams submerge their villages in billions of tons of water? Does all here include those who would irrevocably lose their entire economic livelihood, would have their cultural and ancestral roots eradicated from the face of the earth? Fertile lands would be deluged, land which yield, without exhaustion, bountiful harvests to feed, perpetually, the Igorots and their infinite future generations will be gone…and the animals, the birds…when the forests will be gone, they will be gone…And for what?

“Projected life spans of dams extend only around fifty years…fifty years only…they would sacrifice…they would gamble the perpetual economic livelihood of the Igorots for a mere fifty years of prosperity…prosperity for whom? They say that we, here in the city, will have more electrical power…that we will have more lights and power for our electrical gadgets. It would also save us money as the cost of energy will be cheaper…

“Well, maybe, but who will profit most primarily? The harnessed energy will be used to propel the industries owned by the foreigners…their mines…their assembly plants…all for them to rake in profits…they will profit while we in the city will suffer the consequences of dams’ construction. Water will diminish, depriving plants of water that flow their way. More industries will pollute the remaining water of the rivers, too. This would mean less produce and more expensive goods as supply become less. True, we will have the energy but what good is it if we won’t have anything to eat because goods would have become more expensive?

“And are they really sure about the longevity of dams projections?

“The Ambuclao Dam in Benguet had been predicted to have a life span of fifty years. After only twenty years, its output had diminished considerably. In fact, this is one of the reasons why they now need more power. And they want it from the Arak-O River. In the United States…the dam at Lake Austin, Texas can now only store five percent of its projected capacity after only a decade’s operation…siltation had not been projected correctly…dams have proved to be more of economic dislocations than development…Egypt’s Aswan High Dam had made the Nile Delta infertile as minerals from upstream no longer flow to the Delta…Aswan had eliminated an annual 18,000 tons of sardine supply…dams had turned the Alexandrian and Libyan borders from a stretch of prosperous vineyards since Rome into a virtual desert…contained water exert pressure on the earth’s crust…India’s Koyna Dam touched off an earthquake that killed 200 people and left thousands homeless…contained water engenders disease bearing organisms, noxious plants and other harmful substances…caused epidemics in Pakistan, Ghana and Brazil…

“…So, what would happen to our brother and sister Igorots in the Cordilleras, to their future generations? They have mastered the only economic survival that they know, that of being where they are now…uprooting them would be to throw them subservient into a rigid, cut-throat and ill-prepared cash economy where they are not reared to survive…uproot them from their cultural past…water would inundate their cultural grounds, sacred places of worship…disengage them from their tangible links with their glorious heritage…to where their identity as a people is hinged…their only bridge to the future…

“…Ghanaians, Boules, Nuoians, and other peoples displaced by dams are now aggrieved, dispirited and lacking in initiative…reduced to mere data marks on unemployment and delinquency statistic tabulation sheets…sore spots in society where they never wanted to be in the first place.

“Now, tell me, brothers and sisters, is it right to gamble the present concrete benefits derived from the lands of the Igorots to dream projections that merely exist in dam benefit analysis sheets and that would merely serve the interests of a few and their foreign masters?”

Noel pushed his spectacles up the ridge of his nose. “But Marcos supports the construction of the dams,” he said. “Marcos is a puppet of the imperialists who stand to gain from the dam projects.”

“Down with Marcos!” yelled one of the aktibistas.

“Ibagsak!” shouted the aktibistas. Down with him.

“You tell him,” Noel said. “He is here in Baguio, vacationing. He is at his Mansion House.”

“To Mansion House, to Mansion House, to Mansion House,” chanted the aktibistas. # nordis.net

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