TURNING POINT: A Waterworld in the Making

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NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 31 October) – Last week was probably the first time that the entire country was ravaged by intense torrential rains virulently brought by a typhoon. Two days before its first landfall on 29 October, in Catanduanes, Typhoon Paeng (Nalgae) was already dropping disastrous water bombs in various places in Mindanao, Western and Eastern Visayas, and the rest of Luzon, triggering flash floods and landslides. At least 40 people were confirmed killed by flood and landslide in Maguindanao area alone, data released on Saturday evening by the Bangsamoro government showed. The figure may yet escalate as dozens more were also reported missing.

Paeng shows that our wanton attitude towards the environment – the destructive extraction of resources and our irresponsible disposal of wastes – has worsened the vulnerability of our archipelagic country to the scourges of climate change rushing in as lethal cyclones and rising ocean levels.

The massive disturbance of forests and uplands, for instance, by open-pit mining and unregulated logging, weaken and make them susceptible to erosion and disastrous landslides. Erosion burdens rivers and other waterways with silts, making them shallow and constricted. Thus, they quickly overflow causing flash floods in many places even during a brief downpour.

Meanwhile, in urban areas, solid wastes clog water channels resulting in floods even in a normal rainfall.

We can only imagine the impact of Typhoon Paeng in the submerged areas of Caloocan, Malabon and Navotas (in the National Capital Region), Hagonoy and Calumpit (in) Bulacan, and Masantol and Candaba in Pampanga. These areas, according to experts, have been sinking over the years and have gone underwater. Past typhoons have nothing to do with their sinking, but a vicious one like Paeng with a heavy load of rain may worsen the deplorable condition of these communities.

Dr. Fernando Siringan of the UP Marine Science Institute said that parts of the Camanava area consisting of Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas and Valenzuela City sank by between 2.7 to 9.1 centimeters from 1991 to 2002.

Meanwhile, the Pampanga Delta area, a water catchment basin that covers parts of southwestern Pampanga and Bulacan, has sunk by between 3 cm to 9 cm in the same period.

Accordingly, intensified groundwater withdrawal causes land areas to sink. Urban centers, like Metro Manila, are likely to experience sinking because of increasing demand for groundwater by industries and growing populations.

Now, if you add to this phenomenon the rising ocean levels, a waterworld disaster is not far away.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental, Philippines.)

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