The province of Negros Occidental is gifted with numerous river systems that are essential for agriculture, industrial, and domestic needs. These rivers emanate from various mountain peaks to gentle rolling slopes and large levels of plain land, which we usually refer to as watersheds.
There are at least six major river systems in Negros Occidental and these are the Danao, Himoga-an, and Malogo rivers in the northern part of the province, and in the south the Bago, Binalgaban, and Ilog rivers. However, there are still numerous tributaries that contribute to the flow of water in these major rivers.
While comprehensive resource valuations of these rivers are still needed, their valuable socio-economic benefits could not be understated to the overall economy of Negros Occidental. It is, therefore, of paramount importance that watershed protection and rehabilitation should be vigorously undertaken to ensure that these rivers continuously provide the much needed water resources in the province.
Unfortunately, all these river systems are affected by siltation and sedimentation of soil runoffs from the mountainous slopes and nearby agricultural areas. The deforestation and presence of agriculture along the riverbanks are culprits of these river issues. The required easements along riverbanks are hardly imposed, and in several areas, they even encroach with human settlements.
Pollution from untreated water discharges of industries, as well as solid wastes, are added concerns in most rivers. Synthetic fertilizers and pesticides from agricultural runoffs are also pollutants affecting the rivers. The waterflow in some rivers is diverted from its natural channels.
In spite of numerous challenges facing our rivers, it is important to note that these natural resources also provide scientific, educational, aesthetic, and recreational values. The rivers are similarly important habitats. A good number of freshwater fish species are relying on rivers to live and thrive.
Many of these species are economically viable. Due to illegal fishing and pollution, a variety of freshwater species are already threatened to extinction, some of which are endemic species. There are also plants that are dependent on freshwaters while other species of wildlife rely on our rivers for their drinking water and bathing needs. Rivers are further used for navigation and some with historic and cultural attributes.
Among the peculiar features of our rivers are their aesthetic values, which are pleasant to the eyes and provide refreshing energy and an astounding look. In certain areas, along the river channels, there are also marvelous and gorgeous waterfalls. There are rivers that have been maximized for tourism purposes.
One popular example is the Loboc River in Bohol. The Cagayan River in Cagayan de Oro is famous for whitewater rafting, while Villa Escudero River in Laguna is host to the famous Villa Escudero resort and where dining is available in the flowing water of the river. Of course, the world-renowned Underground River in Puerto Princesa Underground River Natural Park is another important example of river tourism.
In Thailand, for instance, the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi was drawing thousands of foreign and local tourists every month before the pandemic. The presence of the historic bridge popularly known by the name from the movie “The Bridge on the River Kwai” added attractions and numerous tourism facilities and amenities have been provided to cater the large number of visitors in the area. On the two occasions that I visited the River Kwai, I was reminded of the historic bridge in Bago River, which I only thought was comparable to that famous landmark in Thailand if only it would be carefully planned and developed for tourism purposes.
In Negros Occidental, some local government units started to promote river tourism, like the Malogo River in Sagay City and Ilog River in the municipality of Ilog. I also noticed that some minor and small-scale tourism facilities have been constructed and provided along the riverbanks of Bago River and some tributaries of Ilog River, particularly within Kabankalan City. Numerous recreational activities can be made in rivers, such as river tours and sightseeing, swimming, kayaking, and boating, among others. In riverbanks and adjacent sites, picnics and camping are ideal, too.
But just like any tourism development, tourism in rivers should be carefully done so as to avoid negative impacts that are usually associated with mass tourism. Utmost considerations should be provided for the safety of visitors. The development should be low impact, and as much as possible community-based especially in rural areas. Adjacent landowners along the rivers are potential partners or developers for river tourism. *