Animals, some rare, now threatened by poisonous chemicals in Davao watersheds

April 29th, 2013 by

Davao City  –  A team of wildlife researchers from the Philippine Eagle Foundation, Inc. (PEF) has found that the remnant of lowland dipterocarp forests in the Talomo-Lipadas and Panigan-Tamugan (TL-PT) Watersheds, the current and future source of Davao’s drinking water, is the habitat of  some  twenty eight species that can only be found in the Philippines.

“We were able to document 171 vertebrate species, 28 of which are endemic to the Philippines”, said lead researcher PEF Conservation Director Jayson Ybanez who presented the study at the Ateneo de Davao University last April 15, 2013.

The survey  is part of the TL-PT Watershed Resource and Socio-Economic Profile, which aims to provide technical information to help stakeholders identify and plan the most cost effective way to protect and manage the watersheds.

The study revealed that the TL-PT Watersheds is home to the Philippine eagle, the Tarictic hornbill, the rare Mindanao montane racquet tail, the Mindanao scops forest owl, the Mindanao fruit bat, the Philippine flying lemur and the Philippine pygmy squirrel.

The team also observed at least two critically endangered tree species as classified by the IUCN. These are the White miranti and the Tanguile species.

The Interface Development Interventions, Inc. (IDIS) which commissioned the study under a grant from the Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE) and the  United States Agency for International Development (USAID) said that the findings underscore the importance of the TL-PT watersheds.

“The richness of the biodiversity in the remaining forest cover of the watersheds should impel every Dabawenyo to protect the watersheds. As reservoirs of biodiversity, these forests are essential to the survival of our endemic species.”, said IDIS Executive Director Ann Fuertes.

However, unsustainable agriculture, illegal logging and population pressure continue to threaten these fragile habitats and may force twenty eight of these species into extinction, according to the report.

“One of the threats that we found out is that slowly, banana plantations and farms are slowly encroaching towards the forest, even in areas which are considered environmentally critical areas as defined in the Watershed Code.”, said Ybanez.

In addition, with only the Malagos watershed as the sole remaining lowland forest that can support these species, it may take some time before the current reforestation initiatives bear fruit and allow these species to thrive again in the watersheds.

The proponents of the research urge that a more holistic and inclusive  approach should be undertaken in order to conserve the remaining species and habitats and to sustainably rehabilitate the deforested slopes.

This include the use of convergence-building efforts which promote  open, participative and effective  processes in addressing issues of conservation and resource management.

“Adaptive management would be a good scheme, wherein interventions are considered experiments where you refine your way of doing conservation and through that, all of your partners  learn through doing.”, said Ybanez. ( MINDANAO DAILY MIRROR)

Plant, animal species at risk in Davao watershed areas

April 23rd, 2013 by

DAVAO CITY — Twenty-eight species of plants and animals inhabiting forested areas in the city limits — particularly those in Talomo-Lipadas and Panigan-Tamugan watersheds — remain at risk due to deforestation, an environmental group said.

In time for yesterday’s Earth Day observance, the Interface Development Interventions, Inc. (IDIS) has renewed its call for the conservation of watershed areas.

The 28 species under threat were identified through a survey and study commissioned by IDIS to the Philippine Eagle Foundation under a grant from the Foundation for the Philippine Environment with a budget of P750,000.

Based on the survey, dipterocarp forest of hardwood and tropical trees are the most threatened as the areas examined continue to attract illegal loggers and small farmers. The study also showed that watershed areas are now penetrated by plantations that resulted in the discovery of banned and harmful pesticides.

According to the study, the researchers recommended an integrated approach that include achieving clear biodiversity conservation results and utilizing systematic monitoring strategies. It also recommended the tapping of the community-based residents and natives as primary stakeholders to insure inclusion of indigenous communities in watershed management initiatives.

The Talomo-Lipadas and the Panigan-Tamugan watersheds are the chief sources of water for this city’s 1.5 million dwellers. While water supply in the city has remained adequate, both civil society and the Davao City Water District have expressed concern on water quality in the near and medium terms.

Mary Ann V. Fuertes, IDIS executive director, said the study was presented last week to the Environmental Management Bureau, the city council’s committee on health, schools, and other civil society groups.

“This is to highlight or a call for reflection on what we have done to nature. Watersheds are under threat and there is a need for immediate action for a long-term and sustainable management plan for our watersheds,” she said. (Maya M. Padillo, BusinessWorld)

Pesticides: Deadly persistence

April 23rd, 2013 by

THE air and water of Davao City’s Panigan-Tamugan and Talomo-Lipadas watersheds may not be as pristine as they seem.

A study conducted by Interface Development Interventions Incorporated (IDIS) revealed that 18 pesticides and breakdown products have been detected in the area’s air and that 17 pesticides and breakdown products were detected in the area’s water. Traces of 12 banned pesticides or breakdown products were found in both the air and water. Banned pesticides found to be polluting the area are Alrdin and Dieldrin, DDT, Gamma Chlordane and Lindane. Researchers were unable to pinpoint the exact sources of the pesticides but plantations upstream are most likely the culprits.

IDIS revealed the results of their study last Monday in the Board Room of Ateneo de Davao University’s Jacinto campus.

Dr. Romeo Quijano, adviser for the study, explained the presence of the banned pesticides as they were classified as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), which are chemicals that can take years before they fully degrade.

The pesticide residue, as explained by the research, spreads through natural environmental occurrence, as traces of the pesticide can be found in surface water, which can then reach other places by evaporating and then being deposited in land once more through rainfall. This cycle, coupled with pesticide’s persistent nature, makes it a dangerous presence in a land dominated by agricultural activity, such as the Davao region.

It is alarming then, that two of Davao’s watersheds are polluted with pesticide sentiments that cannot be easily detected by plain human senses. People could be ingesting large amounts of pollutants everyday without even realizing it.

Take for example, the amount of pollutants IDIS found to be in the air. IDIS set up sampling stations in three schools to identify potential threats of pesticide pollution in the air. Using a drift catcher, IDIS found that the Baguio High School of Agriculture in Tawantawan, Vinzons Elementary School in Manuel Guianga and the Baracayo Elementary School in Daliaon Plantation were under great risk.

Traces of seven of the pesticides found in the air were found to have exceeded the Reference Exposure Level (REL) at least once during the 24 day sampling period. The REL determines the “acceptable” amount of exposure of people to pesticides, and the air surrounding the three schools was found to be polluted beyond what the RELs deem acceptable.
Moreover, the samples rarely contained traces of just one pesticide. Findings of the study show that there is an average of at least two kinds of pesticides present in the air collected from the sampling stations in the schools, while the air in Baracayo Elementary School yielded traces of a whopping eight pesticides, seven of which are banned.

The multiple pollutants cause a threat which researchers are unable to draw conclusions upon, as there have been no studies to determine risk from exposure to multiple pesticides. Anne Fuertes, executive director of IDIS noted that it is possible that in the presence of other pesticides, a single pesticide may react and yield greater toxicity. Taking into account the persistent nature of the pesticides, it is even more fearful that people are subject to long-term exposure to the pesticides.

Even the watershed’s rivers showed long-term pollution from the pesticides. Over an eight-month period of water sampling, the Tamugan and Panigan Rivers showed the presence of six and seven pesticides, respectively. Four pollutants were also detected in the Panigan-Tamugan junction while six pollutants were present in the Wines-Gumalang river junction. Finally the Gumalang River yielded the highest number of pollutants with 11 pesticides detected. Risk assessment could not be made for pesticides in water, however, as only short term studies on it have been made.

Even without risk assessment, however, pesticides level in air has already been shown to exceed RELs. Moreover, the traces of persistent pesticides in the water put the surrounding areas at risk of exposure to multiple pesticides from multiple sources. For a region that thrives much on agriculture, the amount of pollution in the watershed poses a great threat to the production of crops, but more importantly, the amount of pollution poses a great threat to its people.

The people in the region, especially those living close to the sources of pollution are vulnerable and IDIS has come up with policy recommendations to counter these problems.

IDIS will be moving on to long-term monitoring of the polluted areas to come up with more comprehensive data for policy makers. Until the policy makers make a definite move to clean up the pesticide-laden practices of farmers, however, the seeming clean air and water around the Talomo-Lipadas and Panigan-Tamugan will remain a threat to the communities surrounding them. (Ed Lactaoen, Sunstar Davao)

Toxins in water: Seven banned chemicals found in city’s watersheds- according to study

April 17th, 2013 by

Davao City’s main sources of drinking water are contaminated by eight types of pesticides, seven of which are banned from use, the study by the Interface Development Interventions revealed.According to the study presented during a forum in Ateneo de Davao University yesterday, the sampled waters were taken from Panigan-Tamugan and Talomo- Lipadas and their junctions.

“These are what we call persistent pollutants,” said toxicologist Romeo Quijano of UP Manila, meaning that these chemicals released years ago and banned after they were found to be harmful to humans and the environment.

Traces of the banned pesticides dieldrin, aldrin, chlordane, heptachlor, lindane, endrin and DDT were discovered in the samples, he said.

Quijano said that while there are ways to sequester chemicals from the water to make it potable, such as carbon filtration method, but it only works if the body of water contained the lowest concentration of toxic substances.

Armand Pacudan, Mindanao operations manager of the Foundation for the Philippine Environment, said while the water’s toxicity levels are manageable, the communities and the ecosystem surrounding the watersheds are endangered.

IDIS executive director Anne Fuertes said that their organization is finding it difficult to obtain consistent information that can then enable them to pinpoint from where exactly these chemicals are coming from, whether from nearby plantations or if they predate the plantations.

“Although we are not in the business of pointing them out, we have to at least identify them,” she said of the plantations or factories operating near the watersheds.

“Along with this is the proposal of how to make them find and use alternatives to chemical pesticides,” she said.

The study was funded on a budget of P500, 000 from DKA Austria and the Misereor of Germany. Most of the money went to lab and field equipment.

She said that with the results of the 8-month study, IDIS as well as other stakeholders are hoping the government; both national and local, can come up with policies to regulate and standardize the use and disposal of chemicals, as well put up consistent monitoring on the health of families in large plantations through multi-sectoral cooperation.  (SALUD ISABEL PETALCORIN, Mindanao Times)