Water resources is crucial to the human and economic development of societies. It serves different purpose from household to large facilities. Some of these include sanitation, drinking water, transportation, energy and construction sector. On the other hand, there are traditional values that look on water system as part of the sacred, and it cannot be owned by any private individuals, as it is owned by the spirits (Kho and Sano 2005). Water is considered to be an important element of ecological life that performs physical and biological functions (Ast, Bouma, & Bal, 2008). In modern times, there are many things needed to be considered in maintaining the health and sacredness of water systems and natural resources. One aspect is that the growing population can increase the negative externalities leading to the degradation of natural resources.
The environmental degradation was characterized by Garrett Hardin (1968) as the tragedy of the commons. In his article, Hardin argued that an open-access of commons may lead to overexploitation, without considering the scarcity of its resource. Hardin illustrates his model in the case of herders in an open field. Each herder wants to increase their productivity by increasing their animal in the field. But as they increase their animal, it also produces harmful effects to the common field. Hardin argued that “the social arrangements that produce responsibility are arrangements that create coercion, of some sort”. There is a need to regulate the actors in using the commons by employing a coercive device (taxing).
On the other hand, Ostrom is concerned about how self-governing communities can manage their commons for the benefit of all, and to prevent the tragedy of the commons. According to Ostrom (1990), “common-pool resource refers to a natural or man-made resource system that is sufficiently large as to make it costly, but not impossible, to exclude potential beneficiaries from its use”. Although, Ostrom warns that there will be no single solution. Every common has its own situation and cultural context. There may general principles that can be shared and craft according to the need of the common. But there are also “blueprints” applicable only in the physical and cultural environment of a certain common (Ostrom, 1990).
For Ostrom (1990), it is essential to distinguish the difference between resource systems and resource units in explaining the condition a CPR. Examples of resource systems are parking areas, fishing grounds, dams, or groundwater basins. While the resource units are the benefits and goods that individuals get from the resource system, like space provided by parking areas, fish harvested from fishing grounds, or water supply from dams. In accessing the CPR, Ostrom called the process as appropriation or “withdrawing resource units from a resource system”. While “providers” are the one who is assigned to arrange the provision in using the CPR (e.g. financing and designing). She used the term producer for those who “construct, repair and or takes action that ensures the long-term sustenance of the resource of system itself.”
Ostrom is also aware that both man-made and natural resources will lead to degradation. The limit of resource units can be managed if the appropriators will be able to devise their own rules and sanctions. It could be a trial and error scenario until the self-governing bodies can identity applicable rules based on their own cultural and physical environment.
La Mesa Watershed as Common
In 2007, Proclamation No. 1336 established the La Mesa Watershed Reservation under the joint administration of the DENR and the MWSS (MWSS Annual Report 2015). The La Mesa Watershed has a total land area of 2,700 hectares that provides drinking water for the majority of Metro Manila.
One of the initiative to protect the watershed is through the rehabilitation of the La Mesa Eco Park. The eco park was rehabilitated through the partnership of Metropolitan Waterworks Sewerage System (MWSS), Quezon City government and ABS-CBN Foundation Inc. (AFI) – Bantay Kalikasan. During the rehabilitation, there is a total of 620,800 trees planted in the La Mesa Watershed that covers 98.3 percent of its land area.
As part of the rehabilitation process, the agencies relocated families whom they considered as one of the pollutants of the watersheds. According to an interview with Dave Azurin, project manager, the informal settlers “depended on the watershed’s resources to make a living, so they cut trees for lumber, charcoal or firewood”. Moreover, families were relocated in nearby areas, and free housing were also provided by the MWSS (AFP 2015).
However, the agencies involved in the relocation should monitor and evaluate the situation of relocated families. The former residents should be considered as stakeholders in the rehabilitation process. It is significant to evaluate if the families were able to build their own opportunities after relocation.
In sustaining the current effort, there must be a coherence of rules and activities (security, waste management) between the actors involved (stakeholders, residents, private property holders and LGUs) within the watershed. Moreover, effective and efficient water management should identify multiple factors and actors involved (Lindemann as cited by Orlove and Canton 2010).
The national and local government must consider these various groups involved, and must realize how people put value in the water system.
Prohibitions and restrictions can be applied to some recreational activities in the watershed like swimming, fishing and boating. Although, public access and some of the activities are allowed in the La Mesa Eco Park. In relation, the ecotourism in the La Mesa Eco park is considered to be a form of alternative tourism that aims to achieve economic gain by watershed preservation. The economic gains are shared to the MWSS and QC government. However, there should also remember that gaining high level of visitation in the ecopark may disturb the local ecological lifestyles and practices. Furthermore, the agencies may employ strict standards in maintaining the current state of the nature park. For example, they can restrict the number of visitor per day. The implementation of such regulation can help them understand the capacity of the eco park. While, the national government can employ a rating system for the agencies involved in the management of the eco park. This can help them evaluate their current practice, and align their regulations with each other. At the local level, LGUs must also increase the involvement of local groups in the different ecotourism enterprises.
In the final note, there are wide range of agencies and process involved in the protection of the La Mesa Watershed. The national and local government must consider these various groups involved, and must realize how people put value in the water system.
Ast, J., Bouma, J., & Bal, M. (2008). Governance Values of Water System in Netherlands and India. Retrieved from https;//www.utwente.nl/archive/papers
Hardin, G. (1968). The Tragedy of the Commons. Science, 162, 1243-8.
Orlove, B., & Caton, S. (2010). Water Sustainability: Anthropological Approaches and Prospects. The Annual Review of Anthropology, 39, 401-15.
Ostrom, E. (1990). Governing the Commons: The evolution of institution for collective action. London: Cambridge University Press.
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