COMMENTARY: Gensan flooding: Who is to blame? By Edwin G. Espejo

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/19 January) — Before somebody else jumps on the gun and blames climate change as the culprit behind the flooding the city has experienced over the last few years, one better look into what happened in the city over the same period.

More than two decades ago and even stretching as far as 40 years back, it was inconceivable to see the city flooded for even a few minutes.  Being outside the typhoon belt, General Santos City then has been spared the kind of inundation it is now facing every time heavy rains occur.

The last major weather disturbance that brought flooding in the city was in 1970 when typhoon Yoling brought Metro Manila down on her knees.  Yoling’s devastating reach also brought heavy rains in the city and people living near streams and drainages were having a feast day picking up fresh water fish that were washed away by the flood.

Over the last two decades, however, the topography of the city has drastically changed.

Gone were the ricefields outside the city and in their lieu are now subdivisions.  In the late 60s up to the early 80s, prime movers were still hauling round logs three men cannot embrace with their outstretched hands.

As the city rapidly developed, so did its population increase many times over.

The city, once dubbed as the Dust City of the South, saw its major thoroughfares concreted including its side streets.

The city however was not able to catch up with this urban blight.  In the 1970’s the population of General Santos did not even exceed 200,000.  Now it is more than 750,000.

Yet the drainage system of the city has not been improved dramatically to cope up with the increase in its population and expanding residential areas as well as commercial spaces.

Most of the floodwaters that are dumped into the city come from the northern areas up Mabuhay Road in San Isidro and Nursery Road leading to Conel and Katangawan.  Incidentally, these are also the areas where housing projects are mushrooming.  Yet, the city has not laid a master plan to cope up with, much more anticipate, these urban phenomena.  Call it lack of foresight.  But the reality is the wanton and indiscriminate conversion of lands is most likely the primary reason behind the flash flooding in the city.

Come to think of it.  How many road networks in many subdivisions in the city cannot be maintained by the city because its developers failed to turn them over to the city because they did not meet the drainage standards which they are supposed to religiously comply with in the first place?

The wide roads of Dadiangas Heights, one of the city’s oldest subdivisions already in existence since 1960s, to this day remain private roads.  So are the roads in Gensanville and nobody knows in how many more subdivisions.

In 1998, the city was offered a grant to develop its drainage system but it was rejected by the Antonino administration in 2001.

Now, the omission of the past is haunting the city and its residents.

True the city has started widening the drainage canals in the city proper.  But those are cosmetics.  There must be a catch basin up north to siphon excess water during heavy downpour before channeling them into the main drainage system.

But, is there a main drainage system in the city, in the first place?

Before we whine again, please take another look at the problem.

(Edwin Espejo also writes for www.asiancorrespondent.com)

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