The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is embarking on a project to restore over a million hectares of watershed areas in four of the country’s major upper river basins in a bid not just to recover past biodiversity losses but also to provide livelihood to nearby communities.
The DENR said the project – which runs from 2013 to 2020 – seeks to provide livelihood to some 350,000 households living in 2,201 barangays within the four river basins. The four river basins are Chico in the Cordillera Region, Wahig-Inabanga in Central Visayas, Bukidnon in Northern Mindanao, and Lake Danao Watershed in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
In a statement, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said that the seven-year
Integrated Natural Resources and Environmental Management Program (INREMP) aims to redress the severe land and water degradation that has occurred in important watershed areas and by promoting the use of native species.
“INREMP is akin to the National Greening Program because it also targets to rehabilitate some one million hectares using 58 million indigenous tree seedlings that will be raised and grown under the project,” Paje explained.
Paje said the program adopts an integrated cross-sector approach to river basin management in a bid to improve the symbiotic relationship between existing economic activities and conservation practices being observed in river basins.
“We are looking at the INREMP as a model on how to harmonize development and conservation issues, especially on biodiversity and climate change, in critical watershed areas that are located within these upper river basins,” Paje said.
The environment chief also cited the importance of INREMP to global efforts to reduce greenhouse gases as the program seeks to bring down carbon dioxide emissions from forest activities.
Of the four sites, the Upper Bukidnon River Basin has the highest coverage area at 446,620 hectares, while the Upper Chico River Basin covers 405,894 hectares, the Lake Lanao Watershed with 138,834 hectares and the Upper Wahig-Inabanga with 62,853 hectares.
According to Paje, all four have high biodiversity value besides being major providers of water requirements for major agricultural and industrial activities such as irrigation, power generation and local tourism.
River basins are composed of ecologically and economically important watersheds that drain water through rivers and other tributaries there.