Monday, August 10, 2015
By Art Tibaldo
WITH smoke-belching vehicles climbing the Kennon Road slope of Camp-8 towards the Baguio General Hospital area, one can perhaps reflect on what we learned in school as the eco-system and note the importance of the patches of green within the area that serves as carbon sink that arrests pollution.
However, pollution generated in a place where forest exists is not always the case in most part of our city especially in Baguio’s central business district which was once noted as among the most unhealthy places because of the amount of suspended particulates that showed an alarming rate at the foot of Session Road.
I recall the time back in the mid 90s when I walked through the Camp 8 forest area from the Military Cut-off towards the Bontoc Village below feeling sorry for the burnt pine trees that were reduced to ashes perhaps because of accidental burning from a thrown lit cigarette during a period of El Nino. The Camp 8 watershed is one of the three protected forest reservations in Baguio, being a major source of water within its vicinity particularly along Hillside, Lower Dagsian, the hospital compound and many subdivisions nearby.
My recent sneak-in at the forest’s periphery just to check on its present condition proved that the efforts of many who planted trees throughout the years really paid off as the area is now almost thick with flora. I have observed the presence of many fruit bearing plants and trees such bananas, papayas, coffee that may attract people to tread in the area for food. While there are prohibition notices around the fences, I also noted and documented patches of land planted with rice, corn and watercress which led me to believe that some settlers nearby use the place for farming activities.
Just the other weekend, I went to Buyog Watershed carrying my two-year-old grandson Akiboy on my back to update my image library of the place. We had an event there in 2006 with my former mass communication students when most of the pine trees planted there were just about waist tall. We did a music video about sporting events and the place was perfect for a light mountain trek. In 2008, we had a tree planting at the same place with members of my social media friends and we called it “Eyeball on Top of a Hill” or EBOTOAH. It happened on April 20 2008 and coincided with the celebration of World Earth Day. From where we planted and had some pictorials, we can clearly see the busy commercial and educational areas of the city as the trees were just as tall as ourselves if not shorter.
Buyog is that strip of green sloping land between Quirino Hill and Tam-awan which is clearly visible from many vantage points of the city. Its surroundings are heavily built up with residential houses and many are of three levels or more. What used to be part of the Carabao Mountain that connects to the municipality of La Trinidad, the area is being protected by the city government since it is a major source of water for the residents of Baguio particularly its surrounding areas such as the Pinsao Pilot Project, the Dreamland Subdivision, Dizon Subdivision and BPI Compound. Atop the watershed is a six-meter cylindrical tank of the Baguio Water District that deposits pumped water for distribution. I asked the guard on duty if the supply of water is continuous and the chart that he showed bared that there are days in summer when the water of the tank is reduced to its lowest level.
With the rapid growth and increasing industrial requirements of the city of Baguio and its residents, all three sources of pumped water namely Busol, Buyog and Camp 8 watersheds may not be able to cope with the water supply demands even if rainwater is also being siphoned from Mt. Kabuyao of Tuba, Benguet towards the filtration plants of BWD. While we await the result of the feasibility studies conducted by private firms on a proposed bulk water project in the city, let us not stop from exhausting all possible remedies to conserve, save and retain water. We must plant more trees in all places possible and let us consider other flora especially those that have nitrogen-fixing capabilities such as Callandra or Ipil-ipil. These plants contain symbiotic bacteria called Rhizobia within nodules in their root systems that produce nitrogen compounds that help the plant grow and compete with other plants. When the plant dies, the fixed nitrogen is released making it available to other plants and this helps fertilize the soil.
Rhizobia bacteria are primarily responsible for pulling nitrogen out of the air and making it available to plants, which then use the nitrogen to create proteins. These are among the things that we discuss during our Eco-walk and value formation program in the Busol Watershed. Of course, it goes with the mountaineer’s creed that when in the forest, kill nothing but time, take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but foot prints and bring home nothing but memories.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on August 11, 2015.