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Floodline (3)

Rhona Canoy .

Third and last part

SO… This disclaimer carries over from my previous column: I don’t claim to be an environmental engineer or a civil engineer, nor have I ever hoped or aimed to be. Any and all thoughts following are merely flights of fancy and semi-logical deductions on my part. If, by some fluke, there are thoughts here that are helpful, please feel free to use them without fear of copyright or patent infringement.

After rambling on for the previous two columns, I should wind up this soliloquy. It won’t be difficult at all to find more references as to why we have such a serious flooding problem in our city. The bigger problem will be finding a viable solution to our situation. Just recently there was a pronouncement from one of our local officials regarding how there was no solution to be had. And we are not surprised. But I don’t think that there is no solution. Just very, very, very costly ones.

Like I said previously, there would have to be an extensive study done to figure out where and how the water can be guided to the sea. And I don’t subscribe to the view that everything should lead to our river. I mean, we are trying to save it, aren’t we? I can point out that there is no real urban planning that anyone can see. It’s logical that we have to worry about all the water that is rushing down into our river basin (which is a big part of the city). Bukidnon would have to be the bigger contributor, including our hinterlands. Unless we move our city elsewhere, there is nothing we can do about that.

Our rivers have all been silted up and need serious dredging. I suppose we have our gold miners to thank for that. And we have ourselves to take credit for all the garbage being dumped into our waterways. Talking about just our Cagayan River, there have been efforts to dredge its mouth. During Mayor Jaraula’s short stint, there were dredgers deployed, but I don’t know that there was enough effort to deepen the river bed. At the moment, there is a bridge span being built across the mouth of the river, past the Puntod bridge. And people who live along the barangay Bonbon bank can actually walk across to barangay Macabalan during low tide, where the water is just a little over knee deep. That says a lot.

And talking about our city’s drainage system, it is obvious that what we have in place is not nearly enough. I said previously that any effort to improve our flood drain system (and make it more efficient) would entail a massive redesign and reconstruction of our city which would affect what now exists. I’m sure the cost would be horrendous, just like the time it would take to accomplish. There would have to be a good design to start with, studied well by engineers and urban architects, geologists, meteorologists, and such. Can you imagine tearing up large sections of the city at a time to put the drains in place? And the years it would take to complete each phase of the project? The best part (sarcastically speaking) will be having each subsequent local administration change the plans to fit their avarice and lack of vision. So why bother to start a flood control project at all?

You’re all going to hate me for saying this but we are doomed. We may as well think about equipping ourselves with RIBs (Rubber Inflatable Boats) in case of disaster. Or rebuilding our houses so that they sit on tall pilings to avoid being washed away and destroyed. That’s what they’re doing in the US now, along parts of the Mississippi coast, post-Katrina. Houses must sit at least ten feet above ground level, on pilings subject to building codes. Will it get to that for us?

Oh, and don’t let me forget about all that dike work. Sure, it looks reassuring. Because we don’t know anything about how dikes should work. Each time I drive by any of our bridges and look down on that wall, I often wonder what those people who live alongside it will do when the dike traps the flood water INSIDE the wall. And I wonder, too, if we’re going to have to wait until the next catastrophe to find out if they work or not. We don’t even know if they’re strong enough to withstand forces like those of Sendong. Worse is that experts say the next one will be much worse.

And we keep letting people live in red zones. Has anyone every thought about those people who have crept in and built homes on the inside of the coastal highway? And outside it? There should be some policing of these areas to prevent people from squatting where they shouldn’t. We did have a councilor who was in charge of our “urban poor” but I doubt that he had enough sense to figure out that these people needed to be prevented from living in danger zones, or relocated from  them, as a preventive measure and not as a result of catastrophe.

Sadly, all we keep getting fed is hope. Promises to address our flooding. Promises to beef up our disaster response capabilities. Promises to take care of our affected citizens when disaster strikes. And I suppose we will keep hanging on to this hope because we don’t want to contemplate the more difficult option. Local government could strictly enforce proper zoning (if we have any), designating safer areas and vacating danger zones, taking better care of our city and its people.

For now, all we can do is avoid areas where we have been caught in flood waters, and make sure we are ready for the worst. Or maybe hope that the next big flood will wash away all our corrupt and inept leaders, just like what happened in Noah’s time.


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TREND MAKER. Mindanao Gold Star Daily was established in 1989 to set ablaze a new meaning & flame to the local newspaper business. Throughout the years it continued its focus and interest in the rural areas & pioneered the growth of countryside journalism.

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