Rough Cuts | Flooding in the city: time for decisive action

DURING the past few weeks provinces in Luzon and cities in Metro Manila have been plagued with floods that affected adversely economic activities in those areas.

The incessant bad weather also gave rise to cases of leptospirosis in provinces and cities where rats are said to be abundant. Lately, cases of dengue have been on the rise. And health authorities attribute this phenomenon to the almost daily rains that caused the heavy flooding.
Aside from the health hazards posed by the floods the rampaging waters have also increased substantially the pace of the destruction of public infrastructures especially roads interconnecting the provinces and cities of Luzon.
As of last Tuesday’s news account, potholes in a highway in Bataan have rendered the road almost impassable to vehicles because these have become big enough to allow wheels inside and stuck it right there.
The people in those areas have been complaining of their predicament with their protestation even more manifest during times like these when their economic activities are almost put in a standstill.
But we in Davao, our complaints are as loud as theirs even as the flooding incidents in the city are dependent on how often the heavy rains come and the volume of water that falls. Nevertheless, our city officials should not be complacent. The city’s experience in the last flooding incidents gives us a very disturbing scenario that is more a likelihood to happen again and again if our authorities will just ignore it.
The most recent of course was the inundation of the lower portions of the roads leading to the Davao International Airport; to the Cabantian residential enclaves; the stretch of C.P. Garcia Diversion Highway fronting the Buhangin cockpit; the J.P. Laurel stretch from Davao Light Power plant up to Victoria Plaza, and of course the plains parallel the banks of the Davao, Pangi, and Talomo Rivers.
Even the deadly flashflood spawned by the overflow of Matina Pangi River that killed more than 30 persons in 2011 is still very fresh in the memory of Davaoenos who may have never thought it would happen.
If the local and national government will further delay their interventions of whatever kind, the city’s residents will not have to wait long for the situation in Metro Manila and Luzon provinces and cities to also happen in Davao.
Yes, we believe that the local and national authorities for that matter should take decisive actions that would drastically reduce the risk that the city faces due to floods.
It is clear that these days both local and national authorities are well aware of the problem that has exacerbated the flooding of certain areas of this southern metropolis. As confirmed by no less than the regional director of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), one big factor that contributes to the quick flooding in known flood-prone areas is the occupation by informal settlers of the city’s known water catch basins. Another is the constriction of natural waterways because the banks of creeks and rivers are converted into residential areas also by informal settlers. Add to it the undisciplined ways of the people’s waste disposal making all open canals and drainage pipes’ capacity to accommodate waste and rainwater reduced to almost a hundred percent.
It is this situation that lets water to overflow to the road surface converting it into the new waterway.
After the rains, the drainage pipes and canals become repositories of tons of garbage of all kinds.
Meanwhile, quarry operators at the upstream of the city’s main rivers hardly have any rest time in excavating sand and gravel, boulders and mountain mix. They load tons and tons of these construction aggregates into 10 to 20 tonner trucks using and destroying barangay roads both unpaved and concreted ones.
These are conditions known by the authorities as prevailing in the city. So, if these are perceived as immediate causes of flash floods then it is imperative that the intervention to be done must be focused on these causes as well.
And talking of decisive action, the city, or the national government, must have to clear the catch basins and natural waterways of its illegal occupants. It has to consider all factors in approving development application permits, specifically on the aspect of securing subject areas from the risk of flooding. Better still the city may now need to build huge rainwater impounding and pumping facility.
In areas where natural interventions are recommended these have to be done parallel with much faster engineering interventions. Where replanting of trees is to be undertaken and its positive impact on the erosion problem could come only after ten to 20 years, the government must resort to implementing infrastructure projects that will deter soil erosion.
And where necessary, legal interventions have to be resorted to in order to put an abrupt stop to any extractive activities that would result to faster soil erosion or landslides that could block natural waterways in the upstream.
We know that these are all doable solutions to the worsening problem of flooding in the city. All that is needed to start doing all these is political will.

Posted in Opinion