SOMEONE ELSE’S WINDOWS: Monsoon woes

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/7 June) – It’s the monsoon season once again, and with the likely recurrence of floods in several parts of  Mindanao and the rest of the country, government agencies will again have their hands full attending to the immediate needs of families, if not whole communities, that would be displaced by these disasters.

Amid the usual sight of distributing relief goods, local as well as national officials will again issue a rehash of past statements about the urgency of instituting measures that aim to mitigate the impacts of climate change such as more frequent and more destructive floods. But such ardor would tend to vanish into thin air faster than the floodwaters would recede.

For the incurable skeptics, the main reason would be the lack of desire to really put in place such measures. They may have enough reason to be cynical. Take for instance the case of Bukidnon which, according to a MindaNews report (June 1, 2011), is yet to make a provincial disaster management plan. It would be interesting to know if there are other provinces in Mindanao that are in the same predicament as Bukidnon’s.

Moreover, the whole thing is not only about making plans and allotting a budget. If a particular disaster management plan is not responsive to actual conditions and is made just for the sake of having one, it’s as good as having no plan at all. Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils may pride themselves as “multi-sectoral” or multi-agency bodies. But how many experts are working with them? Do they have updated databases and other information needed for good planning?

Take a cue from the same MindaNews report on Bukidnon’s disaster preparedness: “Board member Jay Albarece said the province was about
to declare a state of calamity in 2010 in response to the dengue problem but that the board encountered ‘inconsistencies in data as to the true extent of the outbreak’.”

Albarece was only talking about data on dengue. How about data indicating areas prone to disasters so that the local government units may impose regulations that aim to mitigate their effects, including the prohibition of settlements and agricultural activities? If the LGUs lack the expertise or resources to obtain these data, they can seek help from, among others, the academe. Xavier University for instance has a GIS-generated database on Cagayan de Oro City’s areas that are at risk to rain-induced disasters particularly floods and landslides.

At the rate the effects of climate change are going it is best to put our response on the level of adaptation and be armed with useful data that can help us cope better with it.

Mitigation measures – for example, planting trees and reducing carbon emissions – may sound worthwhile and may give the assurance that
something can still be done to roll back a greater catastrophe. But restoring denuded forests has come to the picture rather too late.
Even abruptly stopping the emissions of carbon, the chief culprit of global warming, won’t stop climate change dead in its track right away. You ask why? Here’s an illustration: Switch on an electric iron and then turn it off after it become hot. Notice that the heat remains for a few minutes after it is switched off.

The same goes with climate change. Its impact will continue to wreak havoc on whole communities, ecosystems and other resources long after we have reforested our lands or stopped cars and factories from polluting the air we breathe.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno worked as policy analyst for an environment NGO. He can be reached at [email protected])

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