ROUGH CUTS| There is now a sense of urgency

SOME columns back we talked about the vulnerability of some areas in Davao City to such disastrous phenomenon as flash floods. We harped on the failure of the City’s Disaster Risk Reduction & Management Office (CDRRMO) to make its mitigating as well as response plan public. We see the disclosure of these things as one important component in ensuring the safety of the general public when disaster occurs.

For how can the people act accordingly in times of calamities when they are not even informed what the responders intend to do or what they are supposed to do and where they need to go to avoid getting caught in the vortex of such natural phenomena as massive flooding, earthquakes with tsunamis, or major landslides.

But somehow, this important component in disaster mitigation and response management planning seems alien to the CDRRMO executives. And we were able to witness the negative effect of this omission during last Thursday’s heavy downpour in the city. The incessant rains almost repeated the June 2011 flashfloods that inundated the Matina Pangi, Matina Crossing and Bangkal area. This was seen in the water level at the Matina Pangi and Talomo Rivers which almost approximated the floors of the bridges thereat.

It was a good thing that the rains did not last very long in the uplands and the water subsided as soon as the fear of residents in the areas herein-mentioned was starting to evolve into serious apprehension.

On that very day we were travelling back home from the city over at Kilometer 22, Davao-Bukidnon national highway at the junction of Los Amigos-Biao Guianga-Lantaw Bukid at the height of the rain. We saw no road already. It was water all over rushing to the highway from the upper portion of the road from Biao Guianga and from the open drainage beside the highway which was already submerged.

The flood water was more than knee deep and was not showing any sign it was subsiding. Small vehicles such as tricycles, single motorbikes, multicabs, cars and even some bigger units were already stalled. Some drivers intentionally parked their vehicles on the easement located on higher grounds of the highway and opted to wait for the rain to stop.

Why did it happen in that area in Los Amigos when clearly water can easily empty into the nearby Upper Talomo River?

We believe it all boils down to the failure of the City Engineer’s Office to check on the proliferation of invading squatters who have constructed their houses over the drainage canals from Biao Guianga down to the highway in Los Amigos.

The illegal constructions are not only constricting the width of the road as the front side of the houses are already on level of the edge of the concrete road, they are also blocking the flow of rain water from the high ground as some of the houses’ posts are erected right on the middle of the canal. And to think that the “invaded” stretch is now roughly half a kilometer from the national highway junction.

We are certain these illegal constructions have long been seen by the barangay officials of Los Amigos. Why they have not attempted to stop it or even report the same to the City Engineer’s Office is beyond our comprehension.

Of course we know that the owners of the houses constructed on top of the drainage canal are constituents of the barangay officials. The reason why their illegal occupation of the water way is somewhat being tolerated is probably because the barangay officials believe that the owners of the illegal structures do not have the means to buy lands where they could put up their houses.

But then, again, what does this tolerance mean to the safety of the residents in the area during heavy downpour? The houses are now permanent barriers of the smooth and much faster flow of huge water volume. As a consequence the water converges at that junction of the national highway and in just a matter of less than an hour that part of Los Amigos becomes another “water world.”

Meanwhile, we know that our CDRRMO officials are aware that there are other areas as vulnerable as Los Amigos and the Matina-Bangkal-Talomo triangle when it comes to flash floods.

The Mandug-Tigatto-Maa riverside, the Lasang-Bunawan plain that is being snaked through by the treacherous Lasang River are also flood-prone areas of the city.

The size of these barangays and the number of people residing therein all the more urgently necessitate the sharing of the city’s disaster mitigation and risk reduction and response plan to the public — they who stand to be the most affected when disaster strikes.

Posted in Opinion