Davao City – A weeklong international training on water and sanitation concerns has drawn interest in this city as 25 delegates from eight countries share their respective experiences 9-15 February 2011.
Organized by Sweden’s Lund University and coordinated by the Department of Science and Technology Region 11, the training is the fourth of a program series sponsored by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). It has trained 100 professionals from developing countries since 2007. Aside from the Philippines, other participating countries this year are China, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, and Zambia.
The sharing of delegate’s experiences in water sanitation showed similarities in challenges despite cultural differences. Delegates found common difficulties in communicating ideas and creating partnership among stakeholder-beneficiaries, sustainability, time management, and developing tools on how to measure change. On the other hand, vandalism and integration of gender concerns were prominent in some countries.
The Philippine project
The project, entitled "Development and Implementation of Water Safety Plans (WSP) for Two Peri-urban Indigenous People (IP) Communities in Southern Philippines", was conceptualized and implemented by Dr. Anthony C. Sales, DOST Region 11 director; Hydie R. Maspiñas, Davao Water District quality assurance manager; Ms. Stella Gonzales Anima, Metro Kidapawan Water Distriect general manager; and Ms. Angelina N. Tiotangco, Far Eastern University professor.
“The project from the Philippines is the best,” said Lars Bengtsson of the Lund University in an interview. The project proposed a totally new concept replete with strategies, tools, and implementation processes. It was published in the Process Reports for 2009-2010 of the Change Projects from the International Training Programme for Sustainable Urban Water and Sanitation – Integrated Processes.
Project sites were Sitio Upian in Barangay Marilo of Marilog District, Davao City and Barangay Bongolanon in Magpet, North Cotabato which are part of the Davao River watershed and Mt. Apo protected area, respectively.
In the project, understanding the status, trends, and threats of water safety was critical. According to the project report, “…some regions in the country are already experiencing water stress. Water is becoming the most critical resource in the Philippines. Some areas in the country are subject to devastating floods during the wet season. Many areas experience water shortages during the dry season so that storage facilities are needed to store some of the flood water. About 15 percent of all households remain without access to clean and potable water.”
The study was considered "unique" as it developed community-based water safety plans and organized water safety teams in the two participant communities to ensure that the project will be institutionalized and sustainable. Such components are seen as new concepts and strategies in developing frameworks.
“Habitat loss such as deforestation is a single biggest pressure on biodiversity worldwide. Species and ecosystems are disappearing at an unsustainable rate,” the report underscored. It also disclosed that 13.9 percent of families do not have sanitary toilet which showed identical trend in the regional level. It also cited that knowledge about the dangers of polluting water is the first step towards eliminating contamination sources and blocking contamination pathways. Meanwhile, the protection of water sources begins with the management of the watershed itself, including the prevention of industrial and agricultural pollution that can threaten water safety.
Nicknamed WSP4IP, the project has started reviving and enhancing stewardship attitude of the indigenous peoples in accordance with their cultural beliefs and traditions in regard to watershed and water resources management. It has created a vision of a “sustainable watershed that is maintained by the highland communities who are in turn protected from water supply and sanitation related diseases as a result of the capacity building interventions by the project team and other partners.”
The DOST and its role
As the executive body mandated to lead the country in all science and technology related initiatives for maximum socio-economic benefit, the DOST takes a big role in achieving the goals of sustainable urban water and sanitation.
According to Director Anthony Sales, the Department’s mandate impels it to play a very important and multifaceted role, particularly in the area of technology, to address concerns in solid waste management, water safety, and water treatment. He also identified technology enterprise development in agro-forestry and processing, which are being handled by some of its agencies, as an important component in achieving sustainable urban water and sanitation.
Dr. Sales also mentioned some important hydrological studies of the DOST which included ‘Isotopic Technique on Aquifers’ of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute, one of the research and development institute of DOST.
Food safety is also an important concern of the Department. The food safety framework requires that water supply plan for water districts and the technologies on Integrated Water Resources Management be developed.
Attendant to the locally developed technologies of the DOST are various processes and infrastructures crucial to sustainability of water and sanitation especially in urban areas.
Partnerships created and strengthened
The collaboration among the members of the project team: DOST Region 11, Davao City Water District, Metro Kidapawan Water District, and Far Eastern University was initially forged and has become stronger as the project continues to reap one success after another.
Citing political will and cooperation as important to project implementation was the message of Davao City Councilor Marissa Abella, the chairperson of the Environment of the Davao City Council. As one of the speakers on the first day, she presented the Solid Waste Management and Environmental Programs in Davao City which is considered as one of the more successful initiatives in the country.
The implementation efforts for the action plans are very important, she said, referring to the city’s efforts on reforestation using rubber tree, cacao, and coffee that also offer livelihood opportunities. “Diversity is key to sustainability,” she added.
The overarching goal of the Swedish program is the provision of understanding and knowledge about the need for integrated approaches in sustainable water supply and sanitation services in urban areas. It is designed to increase the participants’ capacity to initiate organizational and institutional changes needed for sustainable provision of these services. The Swedish Core Team is composed of Lars Bengtsson, Peder Hjorth, Kenneth M. Persson, Erik Sarner, Justyna Czemiel Berdtsson, and Agneta W. Flinck.(Aristotle P. Carandang, S&T Media Service)