Rough Cuts | Davao City’s flooding problem

What happened to the City Government’s multi-million (or, is it billions?) pesos drainage improvement project that was started during the administration of then-mayor and now President Rodrigo Duterte?

The project is supposed to address the recurrent flooding of low-lying areas of the city during heavy rains. But years after it was started we haven’t heard of clear reports as to its completion or even its present status.

We are raising this question because every time heavy downpour happens in Davao City news reports in print, broadcast and television, and now social media, follow with vivid description of how certain areas are inundated by flood waters. We see footages of hip-deep water at times stranding both vehicles and people. There were even instances when pictures of sunken car and people wading in dirty waters braving strong and potentially life-threatening currents appeared in local papers adding more scare to live video footages.

And as always the flooded places, specifically road portions are those in the Bajada area of J.P. Laurel Avenue from Davao Light down to the Sta. Ana avenue junction; the C.P. Garcia Diversion Road, specifically the stretch fronting the Buhangin cockpit; the stretch of the same highway fronting the La Verna and Pag-ibig sa Buhangin subdivisions; and that portion of Cabantian Road at the vicinity of the St. Mary’s Church and Buhangin Memorial Park. Then, another flood-prone area is the road at the back of a well-known mall at Ecoland going to Times beach.

Of course what should not be forgotten are low-lying plains along Davao City’s major rivers like Mandug, Tigatto and the SIRs at the vicinity of Bankerohan that are all along the Davao River; Matina Crossing, and Bangkal which are cut across by the treacherous Pangi River. We also have Mintal, Ulas, Talomo, and even the Central Park and NHA subdivisions. These places are within the inundation range of Talomo River.

Other than these, Davao City also has the oftentimes wild Lasang River and the Bunawan Creek. These two waterways on the northern sector of the city usually overflow when strong downpour happens in the Paquibato highlands.

But what is seen to be more destructive to the city’s urban areas are the flashfloods that occur when heavy rains fall not only in the uplands but also at the same time in the city proper itself.

When the water starts rising in the areas of the city’s downtown, everybody would be asking what has happened to the city’s supposedly improved drainage system.

Gauged from the speed with which flood waters inundate the low-lying portions of city roads every Dabawenyo, young and old, can easily deduce that the existing drainage system is incapable of accommodating the large volume of water.

And if we have to add the already undersized main canals that will let the floodwaters out into the sea the inundation of not just certain city roads but the adjoining areas along these thoroughfares are as certain as the sun rising in the east.

We have no iota of doubt that the lack of foresight among our city planners in the past has contributed to the city’s present predicament.

Yes, Davao City has a well-crafted Zoning Plan backed by an ordinance that tends to make it appear as unbendable.

But records will show that the bending of the Zoning Ordinance and the plan itself has been as frequent as there are requests that members of the City Council perceive to be “advantageous” to the city’s development strides.

One day an area restricted to a particular purpose under the Zoning Ordinance suddenly get converted into this or that category to accommodate a request from certain party that the local policy makers cannot afford to deny for one reason or another. Such act sometimes leads suspicious minds to think that the conversion is not a case of “one reason or another” but a case of “how much reason.”

And sad to say that it is this “flexibility” aspect of the Zoning Ordinance and Plan that has resulted to the steady degradation of the city’s environmentally critical areas like certain hills being leveled flat to give way to new residential subdivisions.

The city’s upland areas are already bald because of the government’s inability to stop illegal logging and slash-and-burn farming. These have rendered the city’s mountains prone to erosion adding to the rapid siltation of the city’s rivers.

Then there are the city’s unabated quarrying of mountain mix and sand and gravel. These activities have widened the rivers but the quarry operators’ wanton dumping of low quality aggregates right on the rivers has created some “islands” in the center of the waterways. These “islands” impede the flow of water during heavy rains causing it to rise fast and inundate the plains along the city’s rivers.

And naturally, with high waters in the city’s rivers so are waters flowing direct to the city’s main open drainage canals. The result, the water flowing in the rivers and the canals impede the flow of water from the outlets of the city’s drainage system.

We wonder if the city’s previous and present planners ever entertained the idea of putting up a huge and deep water impounding facility where flood waters can be temporarily impounded while the downpour is still ongoing. That could be an unimaginable volume of water taken off the load of the city’s drainage system and the main canals.

When the rains subside the impounded water can be systematically pumped back to the rivers and canals.

And that facility could even be converted into a park where people can stroll subject to safety regulations that the water dump site management shall implement.

Did you gentlemen and ladies of the city government not hear or read of that proposition years back from a Cebuano environmentalist who had been worried tired about the frequent flooding of Metro Manila cities?

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Posted in Opinion