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In 1995, UNESCO registered the 2000-year-old rice terraces of Ifugao Province, in the mountainous northern region of Luzon, Philippines, as “outstanding examples of the living cultural landscape”. Ifugao is one of the most economically depressed areas in the Philippines and is home to a large population. Citing deficiencies in rice terrace conservation planning and deterioration in the condition of the rice terraces, UNESCO placed the Ifugao rice terraces on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2001.
With the dual objective to maintain and improve the quality of life for local communities engaged in rice-terrace farming, and rehabilitating the Banaue Rice Terraces World Heritage Site in the Philippines, the Global Sustainable Electricity Partnership (GSEP) undertook the development of a minihydropower plant (200kW) on Ifugao’s Ambagal River, coupled with the establishment of a rice terrace conservation fund to be financed by the revenues resulting from the power sales.
The Ifugao-Ambangal Minihydro Project was successfully commissioned during a symbolic key handover ceremony which took place in
Since the construction site lies along a steep river valley in a remote mountainous area, usage of heavy machinery was limited due to a lack of physical space and transport infrastructure. Hence, most of the civil works were carried out manually.
The significant involvement of local community stakeholders during the pre-feasibility and feasibility phases was key to the success of the project. Several public hearings, surveys and outreach activities were conducted during the pre-construction phase to ensure local stakeholders’ broad understanding, support and empowerment of the Ifugao-Ambangal Minihydro project.
Central to this project was the establishment of the Rice Terrace Conservation Fund that will help finance local terrace conservation activities through the plant’s power sales. By the end of January 2010, the new Ifugao-Ambangal Power Plant began its commercial operations.
The Ifugao-Ambangal hydropower facility benefits the residents in several ways. In the short term, 180 local jobs were created raising the level of income in the community, with six permanent jobs for the operations of the plant. The plant generates on average 1,200 MWh per year of reliable and clean electricity, meeting between 15-18% of the province’s needs. The project’s power sales to the local electricity distribution cooperative, IFELCO, secure around $70,000 US annually for the conservation fund. Since its inauguration, 11 rice terrace conservation projects have been implemented. The project is also being replicated by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) on the Likud river in Aispulo, Ifugao.
For the complete report on this project, please click here. The project was recognized by UNESCO in its world catalogue of good practices in energy sustainability.
UNESCO highlighted that: “Thanks to the efforts deployed by UNESCO and initiatives like the GSEP’s Ifugao-Ambangal Minihydro project, the Ifugao Rice Terraces of the Cordilleras were removed from the list of World Heritage in Danger in June 2012. The project is a perfect example of true sustainable energy development, providing much-needed clean, renewable electricity to the region, improving quality of life for people working in the rice terraces, and contributing to the conservation of a world-renowned cultural heritage.”