ADVOCACY MINDANOW: I know why the floods!

FLOODING –Early dawn of Sunday, I was already receiving text messages about the rising of the floodwaters in the Davao river and its tributaries. Even friends in Manila whose families are Davao City residents were already waking us up in Davao City telling us of the evacuations of families from their downtown homes.  One of them was Ms.  Cha Olea, my inaanak and close family friend whose family has a house in San Rafael Village (Domsat). His grandfather’s house became an instant evacuation center. Even the 911 emergency stations and the AFP disaster watch were already dispatching situationers before daybreak.

By now, the full extent of this must be known.

SEA LEVEL RISEN —   Rains have been normal occurrences. But why the frequent floods nowadays? There may be many reasons for this.

But I know one answer:   the water level of the biggest catchment area for all waters, the sea, has risen over the years. My calculation is that IT HAS RISEN BY ONE FOOT OVER A PERIOD OF 20 YEARS. Hence, rain waters and floods no longer easily flow or empty out into the sea. They are clogged in the waterways and spill out into the riverbanks. When flood waters rush down during high tide, they get stuck, at times and worse, a “backflow” of seawater during high tide. When seawaters rise high, it flows back inland through rivers.  Hence, low-lying areas or subdivisions or residential areas around or near riverbanks are in trouble.
PERSONAL EXPERIENCE — I know this because I personally witnessed how the sea level had gone up over the years.


Our family lived for four years in our resort house by the sea in Davao City in the 1990’s (or about 20 years ago) while we were slowly renovating our house in the GSIS area inland. Our beach house was in fact built over the water, jutting out into the sea, with stilt cement posts and under our floor was sea water rising and ebbing. (I remember my wife Beth having a “floater” by her side in bed whenever she would go to sleep when the waves were big and I was traveling out of town.) The highest water level during high tides left water traces on the cement posts. I would notice because every time I woke up in the morning, I could see the water markings.
ONE FOOT HIGHER —Yesterday, I called our resort employee who was with us at the resort all the time since it opened just to further verify.  I asked him to check the water markings on the same post I was monitoring for years.  He told me the highest tide level HAS RISEN BY ABOUT ONE FOOT OR 12 INCHES from its highest level 20 years ago. Our science people may dispute this but I can show them the posts.  In fact, we had to demolish one resort hut which was also jutting out into the sea because the water level rose to touch the floor over the years. It was way above the water when it was built.
This is the problem.  Sea water level rising by 12 inches over 20 years is a tell-tale sign of more disasters to come. Last Sunday’s flooding was still even moderate because the tide this week is described in the vernacular as “AYA-AY”, meaning, there is no distinct high or low tide as the sea level is steady with a very slight change depending on the time of the day. The “aya-ay” water level is however still comparably high.

INCONVENIENT TRUTH — But why the rise? And why the many natural calamities like typhoons? Well, that’s another question needing answers. Climate change is the common answer. They say increased earth’s temperature rising due to emissions from our human activities cause the icebergs in the north and south poles to melt, hence adding more water into our seas. And disrupting normal weather patterns. And so on and so forth.
In my case, I won’t venture more on WHY the rise of the sea water. But I can swear that I personally witnessed that IT ROSE BY 12 INCHES!
That is the “inconvenient truth” that former US Vice President Al Gore sometime ago warned the world about! The situation is now so critical that I even proposed, as some elsewhere did, that instead of calling this “climate change”,  we should start referring to this phenomenon as “CLIMATE CRISIS” to show the urgency and the seriousness of the situation the earth is facing.
CONFLICT vs. CALAMITY — Today, we are starting to face the reality that natural calamities are now worse harbingers of human sufferings than man-made conflicts.

I used to agonize over the miseries of evacuees from conflicts. I used to help attend to the needs of displaced civilians because of internecine fighting and armed attacks that spawned human sufferings. As a matter of fact, I have witnessed the “double whammy” suffered by communities that are in conflict-affected areas and also victims of flooding and other calamities.
I am now more awed and horrified at what natural calamities can bring.
This is the new challenge that we must all face. Our own government and private sector must grapple with this. Even those who rebel and fight government must come around and realize that there is a higher and nobler cause to attend to.  Foreign governments and donor agencies, of course, must now redirect and readjust.

I recall what happened in Aceh, Indonesia. When the “tsunami” hit the area, the devastation was so bad that all closed ranks, including the rebels, to help. It even triggered the peace settlement between the Indonesian rebels and freedom fighters and government.

A calamity can indeed bring opportunity. Provided we all act with urgency!