DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/09 May) – Liguasan Marsh in Southwestern Mindanao is facing threats caused by climate change and chemical pollution owing to the growing number of pineapple, banana and oil palm plantations, a retired general turned environment advocate said.
On Tuesday, the first day of the "Climate Resilience and Green Growth in Mindanao: A Roadmap for Inclusive and Sustainable Economic Development" at the Grand Regal here, Climate Smart Network convener retired general Victor Corpus said the threats, if not addressed at once, will affect the rich biodiversity and the communities that depend on the marsh for livelihood.
He said the marsh can provide livelihood opportunities for the people if the right development programs are put in place.
He said the marsh is surrounded by nine watersheds with 16 rivers flowing to it.
"Almost no forest left in the nine watersheds. When it rains all top soil in uplands are washed to different 16 rivers causing heavy siltation of the rivers. When rivers are silted, it easily overflows, flooding the nearby communities and cause misery to the people living in the marsh land," he said.
These threats, Corpuz said, will drive away even the migratory birds that use the marshland as a habitat.
"Some plantations even use planes to spray chemical pesticides on crops that end in the river," he said.
To address the social and economic needs of the people, Corpus said the marsh can be developed into an ecotourism destination.
"The marshland itself will be good for bird watching while manufacturing can be done elsewhere so we can protect the marshland proper, and give additional livelihood for the people," he said.
He suggested to the government and its development partners to empower the communities in recycling the water hyacinths because "it clogs the rivers" and causes flooding.
He said the farmers can profit from water hyacinths by converting the plants into organic fertilizers.
He said the local government units may rehabilitate the marsh, including the surrounding nine watersheds as "carbon sink."
"This involves rehabilitation of nine denuded watersheds using assisted natural regeneration in the upper portion while agro-forestry development in the lower portion. We can use bamboo and moringa to prevent soil erosion along riverbanks, which can give livelihood to the people. The reforested areas can serve as carbon sink in a combating climate change, de-silt the rivers and make the rivers deep enough to serve as source of irrigation," he said.
The farmers, he said, can benefit from the marsh by tapping the 16 rivers for irrigation canals.
"If we do that we can free more than then 200,000 hectares of very rich organic farmlands that are favorable for organic farming. This can be converted into organic farming area, which can become the biggest area devoted for organic farming," he said.
He said about 4 million jobs can be generated for organic farming alone and can eventually encourage use of organic fertilizers instead of chemicals. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)