Today, the province is beginning to experience the effects of environmental degradation. Forests are being decimated at an alarming rate with forest depletion attributed to over-exploitation of timber resources through the indiscriminate timber poaching. Similarly, the pressure from an increasing population is of concern. More and more people are moving to the uplands and are becoming dependent on the use of natural resources for survival. The irrational use of these resources leads to deforestation, soil erosion, lesser agricultural productivity and in the end, the deterioration of the environment. It is lamentable to note that the rich forest resources of the province and the intangible benefits derived from them have not yet been fully recognized and appreciated by the people. There seems to be apathy and indifference by the people to accept and appreciate the importance of the environment and the adverse influences to it by man. But there is hope……
Some areas of the province are considered as environmentally critical and this require a special management system appropriate to the area. The management approach shall be collaborative and participatory, thus giving the stakeholders control and influence in the development of these areas. The protected areas are those identified by the DENR as watershed areas, coastal and marine areas for conservation and aqua marine production, and areas for eco-tourism development. The existence of the two major water bodies, the Agusan River and Lake Mainit, demands protective measures to conserve their water quality.
Abuses against the environment experienced in the past are being mitigated. The province has preserved its protection area of 81,785.14 hectares. Its 43.28% cover is augmented with 112,545.94 hectares more from its production forest whose utilization scheme ensures that such area are covered with trees at any given time. A total of 13,105.92 hectares protection area is under the co-management scheme. These forest utilization schemes shall also include mitigation activities of denuded areas. The mining degraded area is also among those that will be regenerated in the process.
To contribute to climate change adaptation objectives and to rehabilitate degraded forest, assisted natural regeneration activities shall also be promoted especially in the co-management area. This will boost the production of naturally grown species and create more carbon sinks. To this effect, establishment of clonal nursery is also deemed necessary to ensure that ample supply of seedlings are readily available for massive tree planting activities.
All the easement areas of riverbanks are stabilized with bamboo trees and mangrove forest. The mouths of rivers are regularly dredged. Regular monitoring activities of the Agusan River shall also be conducted.
The province must be able to curb the extreme use of quarries on its rivers. Along the strictly enforced limit in the quarrying activities, dikes should secure the degenerated riverbanks in these quarry areas.
The operationalization of solid waste management programs in the municipalities is addressing a host of concerns like clogging of canals. In municipalities where the establishment of a disposal facility is not feasible, clustering of a common disposal facility shall be promoted.
Mining operations in the province shall be strictly regulated by a comprehensive set of provincial and national laws that ensure air, water and forest resources are protected. Employees are to be properly trained to work in safe conditions. The land should be reclaimed for future use. Sustainability of production lands is a major concern as the province aims for sustainable and balanced development. Proposed mining and quarrying operations shall be carefully scrutinized and studied by concerned agencies.
To protect the sources of water, comprehensive watershed management program shall be formulated. The restoration of vegetative cover in denuded areas is of major concern and shall be carried out in the next 7 years. About 10 hectares will be rehabilitated every year. Policies on the utilization of groundwater for private use shall be instituted. Extraction and/or quarrying of aggregates from rivers, streams and creeks as well as strict monitoring activities shall be enforced. River banks shall be regularly cleaned to prevent the water from rising during heavy rains. Conduct of massive tree planting activities shall be regularly undertaken.
The increasing numbers of people residing in ecologically sensitive areas in the uplands is a threat to the province’s attempts at preserving and rehabilitating its forest area. For this reason, In June 27, 2007, the DENR and the Provincial Government forged a memorandum of agreement to co-manage the 56,000 hectares cancelled TLA of Nasipit Lumber Company (NALCO). The project is geared towards the sustainable use, development, management and conservation of the area.
Another area of concern is the people living in environmentally critical areas. Settlements that are located in hazardous areas shall be relocated in safer areas. Provision of alternative livelihood to individuals engaged in extraction of natural resources in hazardous areas shall be supported.
Risk reduction measures are most successful with the direct participation of the people most likely to be exposed to hazards. Local leaders drawn from political, social and economic sectors need to assume a primary responsibility for the protection of their own communities. Existing community-based organizations, including women’s organizations, should be strengthened. For more effective implementation of DRR, regular consultations with CBO’s (spell out)are necessary.
Priority emphasis must be given to education as an essential part of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation strategies. Increased public awareness about hazards is a vital element in any comprehensive strategy for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation and public awareness campaigns shall be conducted in schools down to the barangays.