Green Power to Help Ancient Rice Terraces

MANILA, Philippines, Jan. 25 (UPI) — A group of international power companies has donated a $1 million hydroelectric project to help save legendary rice terraces in the Philippines.

Deterioration of the massive rice terraces — dubbed the “stairway to heaven” and the “eighth wonder of the world” — prompted UNESCO in 2001 to include them on its list of World Heritage Sites in Danger. They were created mostly by hand more than 2,000 years ago by the indigenous people of the northern province of Ifugao.

The hydro facility, located on the Ambangal River downstream of the terraces, will generate about 1,450 megawatts annually, providing 18 percent of the electricity needs for Ifugao.

With a development phase of four years, in collaboration with the Philippines Department of Energy and the Provincial Government of Ifugao, the facility was built and donated by Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power Co. on behalf of the e8, an international non-profit organization of 10 leading power utilities from G8 countries.

“It is our goal not only to pursue sustainable energy development but to raise awareness of the cultural heritage of one nation. The Ifugao Rice Terraces is a cultural site and must be protected,” e8 Executive Director Johane Meagher said in a statement Friday.

The e8 is comprised of American Electric Power and Duke Energy of the United States; Hydro-Quebec and Ontario Power Generation of Canada; Electricite de France; ENEL S.p.a. of Italy; RWE AG of Germany; JSC “RusHydro” of Russia; and Kansai Electric Power Co. Inc. and TEPCO of Japan.

The organization’s mission includes promoting sustainable energy development through electricity sector projects in developing and emerging nations as well as playing an active role in the international debate on global electricity.

The Ifugao Ambangal is expected to generate some $70,000 in annual revenue for the Rice Terrace Conservation Fund.

A 2004 study estimates it will cost $400,000 a year to stop the deterioration of the terraces. But the Ifugao project supervisor and TEPCO general manager of international exchange and cooperation, Yoshihiro Hatano, said the project “is an important first step” and hopes “this contribution by TEPCO and the e8 will inspire and bring other donors to this important cause.”

Located nearly 5,000 feet above sea level, the rice terraces cover more than 4,000 square miles of mountainside. According to folklore, the terraces would wrap around half the globe if placed end to end. They are fed by an ancient irrigation system from the rainforests above.

Causes for the deterioration of the terraces include migration of farmers to cities, declining income from farming and the indiscriminate use of technology, according to the Ifugao Rice Terraces and Cultural Heritage Office.

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