DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 23 Jan) ¬– Farmers’ groups here blamed land-use conversion and deforestation for the cause of flooding in 15 villages in this city and other areas in Southern Mindanao.
Pedro Arnado, secretary-general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP)-Southern Mindanao and spokesperson of the Anakpawis Partylist Davao City Chapter, said in a press statement Tuesday that they have long warned and called to end land-use conversion.
He said the forest cover in the city decreased from 6,700 hectares (ha) in 1987 to 1,300 ha at present due to land-use conversions into housing projects, commercial establishments and plantations of bananas and pineapples for export.
He cited that land-use conversion is prevalent in Marilog, Calinan, Sibulan, Toril, Buhangin, Tigatto, Mandug, and Waan that resulted in the destruction of the integrity of the city’s Talomo-Lipadas watershed.
Arnado said the people have suffered from the calamity and this problem will remain unresolved until a rational land-use plan and genuine agrarian reform program will be implemented.
He said the KMP is calling for genuine distribution of lands to the poor farmers for them to develop agricultural lands that will ensure food production and reforestation.
Land-use conversion also caused displacements of residents in these areas, he added.
Meanwhile, Toto Bolcan, spokesperson of Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) Davao City, earlier said that Waan, Tigatto and Mandug flood victims are farmers and workers of banana plantations.
He said residents from Gravahan in Matina are displaced residents from the highlands who were forced to live by the riverbanks, hoping for the city government’s housing programs.
Robert Alabado III, chief of the City Planning and Development Office (CPDO), said in an interview Tuesday land-use conversions from forestal and agricultural to residential here are negligible.
He cited that the city has consumed about 65 percent, or about 7,500 ha, of the total areas for residential use, which has been allotted 15 percent of the 244,000 ha total land area of Davao, based on the existing zoning ordinance.
Of the city’s total land area, agricultural lands comprise more than 50 percent, agro-forests six percent, and conservation or the “no touch” areas 26 percent, he said.
He said the urban areas here, which include residential, commercial and industrial areas, comprise 37,000 ha.
An increase of residential areas to 17.5 percent and an additional 48,000 ha to the conservation areas have been included in the proposed updated zoning ordinance of the city, Alabado said.
He said critical watershed areas that are highly susceptible to floods will be added to the conservation areas.
The updated zoning ordinance, along with the Comprehensive Development Plan for 2012-2021, is now being discussed in the zoning committee of the city council.
Alabado said the CPDO discourages housing projects in areas highly susceptible to flood.
He said under the proposed zoning ordinance, critical areas where there are applications for residential developments will be converted into parks and recreational areas.
But for housing developments that are already approved, the city will insist for climate change mitigating measures, he added.
Mayor Sara Duterte said housing projects and/or land-use conversion do not contribute to flooding of rivers, adding, “It’s a wrong premise.”
She explained that a river has a tendency to overflow and the correct thing to do is look into the land use. “How do you use land close to rivers, the sea, mountains, volcanoes, etc.?” she asked.
The river will still overflow even if the area near it is agricultural, she said in a text message, citing the flood incident in Paquibato District in 2011 that resulted in the extensive destruction of various agricultural areas.
“There should be a land use plan, an extensive hazard map, and a computer-generated simulation of what will happen in case of calamity in pre-identified hazard areas, etc.,” she said.
She added that the city should also have a strict regulation based on the data available from the aforementioned things needed.
She pointed out that a comprehensive study of the rivers should be done, especially in the portions where there are residential areas such as in the case of the Jade Valley Subdivision in Tigatto village here.
She said the study should involve the entire city, and from there, plan out the interventions, which are “not to prevent but reduce and mitigate risk.”
“A lot can be done to reduce flooding (such as creating) dams, dikes, revetment, dredging and other engineering intervention,” she added.
The City Social Services and Development Office said that as of Tuesday morning, a total of 14,352 families with 43,218 dependents have been affected by the flood due to inundations of Lasang, Davao, Lipadas and Talomo Rivers last Saturday night. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro / MindaNews)