Thursday, September 4, 2008
The hills are alive!
Approximately 3000 years ago the people of Cordillera created one of mankind’s most impressive landscape modification projects up to date. If this ingenious undertaking was accomplished in modern times the enormous task would seem to be less than impressive, however the fact that it was completed thousands of years ago without the use of modern apparatus and machinery makes it well worth the title of 'the world's eight wonder' it often gets referred to as.
The idea behind field terracing is simple: carve horizontal ledges into hills, essentially creating thousands of small walled fields from base to peak in which to grow crops and retain much needed water. Entire mountains, sometimes thousands of feet high is sculpted like blocks of wood. That in itself is incredible. Then there is the irrigation system: the natural streams and rivers have been diverted using a huge and complex arrangement of canals, sluices and taps. The water is pushed to the highest terraces using miles of wooden piping. When the terraces fill up they overflow and start to fill the terraced field below, and the cycle continues until the entire mountain is watered.
The rice terraces are a huge tourist attraction, however the tourism is also thought to be responsible for the start of what could be a slow death of the terraces. Firstly, the new generation of locals see the hospitality industry created by the terraces as a far more appealing line of work than the constant farming and attention needed to sustain the terraces themselves. Secondly, water isn’t as readily available as in the past due to the effects of an earthquake in 1990 and the new demand for water itself from the tourist industry. For that reason UNESCO has placed the terraces on a list of world heritage sites it believes to be ‘in danger’ in hope of starting a successful rehabilitation of the world’s most incredible agricultural engineering system.
The rice terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, if laid out end to end, would stretch halfway around the globe