Posted tagged ‘ecosystem management’

WATER RIOTS IN MANILA: TOO SOON!

August 5, 2010

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Good evening from the Philippines!

A water crisis is now looming big in Manila (the entire metropolis), the Philippine’s premier big city. The western side of the big city is particularly badly affected by pilferages and spillages (over 55% lost), thus reducing the volume of water available to around 7 million people more or less.

Such a situation has been causing panic lately on urban residents, a panic that could lead to water riots. The western side of the big city is flatlands, which renders it vulnerable to floods and consequent destruction of water pipelines during calamities. Contrast that to the eastern side that comprises of highlands where watershed areas are nestled.

Just recently, the palace officials in Manila have been pronouncing the mobilization of army troops to help deter possible water riots. This is a new twist in the history of army missions, as the mission is one of police task in an urban setting (most army missions comprise of anti-insurgency tasks in rural hinterlands).

The outbreak of water conflicts right at the heart of Manila appears  culled from the futuristic narratives of Isaac Asimov. The sci-fi genius prophesied (right after World War II) that the future will see communities divided between suburban highlands and urban lowlands. The residents of the suburbs, whose living comfort in gated villages is accompanied by robot sentinels, will comprise the upper class, while those of the urban lowlands, who will be exposed to the hovels of pollution, will comprise the lower class.

The urban-suburban divide seems to be gelling so fast in this country today. The water crisis caught palace officials and utilities bureaucrats flatfooted, even as they have been acting in near-hysteria fashion. A water war right in the big city is looming ahead, and there’s nothing in the management textbooks of the officials that can offer them quick solutions to an escalating crisis.

I do recall well that in the late 1990s, when I went back to graduate school to hone my skills in development policy via retooling with state-of-the-art analysis and social technologies, we already forecast the possibility of water wars (during classroom discussions). At that time, certain towns in the Cordilleras (mountain range to the north) began matter-of-factly to quarrel over water source and distribution. And so the challenge for us development workers was to craft mitigation measures that can deter such wars.

As soon as the new millennium began, Singapore and Malaysia did have some diplomatic confrontation regarding the issue of Singapore’s access to water sources found in Malaysia. The water source, so to speak, was getting depleted, thus slowly disabling Singapore from meeting its water needs. Desalination was the strategic solution to the problem, a surefire solution by Singapore’s visionary leaders that averted another conflict between the two polities (the earlier conflict led to Singapore’s separation from the Malaysian federation).

Certain policy experts and development workers are quite prepared for the eventuality of water wars in this 2nd world country, true. But those in the palace and even the legislature just may not have that luck of being exposed to new policy and institutional tools to deal with water-based conflicts.

Certainly too, the local execs and bureaucrats of Manila are unprepared for such a gargantuan crisis and eminent conflict based on water access and distribution. They haven’t retooled, and I know this for a fact based on my interaction with local officials known to me in the big city. They are mired in the old world, a world that is long gone (10 years ago in today’s context of rapid change is too long a time gone).

A water-based Asimovian nightmare is shaping up fast in Manila, and probably in other mega-cities around the world as well, a nightmare that is over-stretching the competencies of Establishment bureaucrats and politicians. The crisis exacerbates the urgency for urban lowland dwellers to leave the flatlands once and for all for the greener and water-rich highland suburbs, which could be the lowlanders’ panic complex response.

As an analyst and development practitioner, I am critical of any decision to use police state tactics to resolve the crisis. Scare tactics won’t let the problem fade away at all. The stakeholders better do their homework well, by getting together to dialogue, think and act. Through good all consensus they can configure what course of action to take that includes desalination of waters off Manila Bay.

Meantime, I am now all the more discouraged from ever residing or working in urban flatlands. Safely niched in Manila’s western highlands and suburban Calabarzon for the longest part of my life, I’d now rather heed the Asimovian option of better living in the suburbs, with or without the robot sentinels in our subdivision villages.

[Philippines, 23 July 2010]

[See: IKONOKLAST: http://erleargonza.blogspot.com,

UNLADTAU: https://unladtau.wordpress.com,

COSMICBUHAY: http://cosmicbuhay.blogspot.com,

BRIGHTWORLD: http://erlefraynebrightworld.wordpress.com, ARTBLOG: http://erleargonza.wordpress.com,

ARGONZAPOEM: http://argonzapoem.blogspot.com]

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FORESTRY SECTOR & SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY: GHANA CASE

October 18, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

 

Magandang umaga! Good morning!

 

It is interesting to examine how state players can somehow enable the social responsibility field by enforcing rules on certain market players to recognize the social responsibility criterion in their areas of operations. One such appropriate case is the country of Ghana, where logging firms must follow the same criterion through an instrument called ‘Social Responsibility Agreement.’

 

A summary of the report about the country case is shown below.

 

[07 October 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to Eldis database reports.]


 

 

Social responsibility agreements in Ghana’s forestry sector

Authors: Ayine,D.M.
Produced by: International Institute for Environment and Development (2008)

In Ghana, legislation requires logging firms to commit a portion of their financial resources towards the provision of social amenities to local forest communities. Logging firms must perform this legal obligation by signing and implementing “Social Responsibility Agreements” (SRAs) with forest communities. This report is about legal arrangements for enabling forest communities in Ghana to participate better in the benefits generated by timber activities.

The document considers whether SRAs serve as effective vehicles for the sharing of benefits between local forest communities and investors. It reviews experience with Social Responsibility Agreements, and looks at what difference they have made to forest communities. In addition the author assesses the design, implementation and outcomes of Social Responsibility Agreements in the forestry industry in Ghana, drawing on a number of SRAs concluded between timber firms and local communities. Conclusions include:

  • Ghana’s experience may provide interesting lessons for other countries that are looking into developing arrangements to promote benefit sharing in forestry or in other sectors
  • the positive features of SRAs include clearly laid out minimum standards, explicit legal backing, and consideration for the conditions laid out in SRAs in the selection process for competitive TUC bids
  • wthe legal framework provides an enabling environment for the negotiation of SRAs, the actual practice of negotiating and implementing these agreements leaves much to be desired
  • Social Responsibility Agreements may become a more effective tool if local groups are better equipped to negotiate them. This requires establishing mechanisms to broaden community representation, so as to minimise local elite capture of SRA benefits.