The Construction of the Jalaur River Multi-Purpose Project Stage II (JRMP II) is about to commence and the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) recognizes the importance of watershed management in the biggest irrigation development project of Iloilo. Thus, aside from the technical and civil works, the project proponent ensures sustainability and protection of the Jalaur watershed.

Through the years, several approaches on reforestation have been initiated by the government. The Enhanced National Greening Program (E-NGP) and Forest Management Program (FMP) are the priority programs of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) addressing and combatting deforestation in upland areas. Both projects use community-based forest management approach through formation of different People’s Organization as key stakeholders and participants in the reforestation of the uplands.

The same approach will be employed by the NIA for the watershed area of the JRMP II. The agency will make use of the organized Indigenous Peoples Organization (IPO) in the hinterlands of Calinog to implement various programs. As a safeguard policy and forest protection mechanism, community based forest management is foreseen as a strategy to enhance the remaining forest cover of the Jalaur Watershed ensuring the sustainability of the reservoir.

Reforestation efforts aim to restore the biodiversity of the area, mitigate the effects of climate change, act as a carbon pool/sink, protective barriers (shelterbelts, windbreaks, buffer zone) and prevent soil erosion. On a well-forested watershed, diversity of flora and fauna species is high due to the abundance of resources within their habitat such as food, cover type, oxygen, mate, space and less competition. 

Studies revealed that forest sequester carbon at the same time act as a carbon sink thus forests play an important role in mitigating the effect of climate change by absorbing huge amount of carbon dioxide, fixing carbon during photosynthesis and storing excess carbon as biomass.

Open and denuded watersheds are most likely susceptible to soil erosion and likewise yields huge amount of sediments. Sedimentation has a deleterious effect not only on the dams’ water quality but also its water yield. Forest serves as protective layer on soil erosion as it prolongs direct fall of precipitation on the ground through its canopy interception thus lessening surface run-off and improves water percolation. Therefore, sustainability of the dams’ life is directly related with the degree of vegetation and management practice employed. /JP Keejay Celeste