Delta Bridge cleared of water hyacinths Sunday morning but…

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/26 June) – The mass of water hyacinths that built up under the Delta Bridge due to rains since the third week of May, is gone.

As of 7 a.m. Sunday, the estimated 20-hectare islet of water hyacinths has been cleared, Lt. Gregorio Jose, spokesperson of the 603rd Infantry Brigade said, quoting reports of soldiers  stationed at Delta Bridge.

The soldiers and workers from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao pulled out of the area after it was declared cleared. By Sunday noon, however,  newly-arrived water hyacinths had started building up again.

The mass of water hyacinths was estimated to be about 10 to 12 hectares as of June 14 and 20 hectares by June 17.

The water hyacinths are among the contributing factors behind the recent floods in Cotabato City and neighboring provinces.

According to the situation report of the Mindanao River basin as of June 17,  the mass of water hyacinths had “hardened and reached the river bed which is estimated to be about three to four meters deep.”

Arcbhishop Orlando Quevedo, chair of the Presidential Task Force Mindanao River Basin Rehabilitation and Development (PTFMRBRD), told MindaNews the estimated height of the water hyacinths with roots and soil is three meters while the depth of the highly silted middle part of the river is between three to four meters. “The sides of the river are five to six meters deep that’s why the water hyacinths can freely flow on the sides,” he said.

The clog formed a natural dam “and caused a major portion of the water to overflow into the Matampay River in the right and to Barangay Bulibod, Sultan Kudarat municipality on the left,” the report said.

“While the effects at Barangay Bulibod is relatively small as it sloped upwards, the water run-off towards the Matampay River is causing havoc to the low lying barangays of Cotabato City. With the Matampay River itself already swollen, the overflow from the Rio Grande has nowhere to go but the city,” the report said.

Brig. Gen. Rey Ardo,  chief of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division deployed 500 soldiers to help clear the water hyacinths. Workers from the town of Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao and from Cotabato City and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, along with firemen and workers from the Department of Public Works and Highways, also helped using mostly bamboo poles.

Two watermaster dredgers were sent to help chip off the islet of water hyacinths. A modular barge was also sent over from Cagayan de Oro City.

President Aquino visited the city on June 22.  The  President  conducted an aerial inspection and checked on the water hyacinth buildup in Delta Bridge before proceeding to an evacuation center.

He assured residents of government’s help and said studies are being conducted on how to address the flooding problem.  (MindaNews)