TURNING POINT: A water world in the making

NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / October 31) – Last week was probably the first time that the whole country was hit by torrential rains caused by a typhoon. Two days before its first landfall on October 29 in Catanduanes, Typhoon Paeng (Nalgae) was already dropping devastating depth charges in various locations in Mindanao, the western and eastern Visayas and the rest of Luzon, triggering flash floods and landslides. At least 40 people have been killed by floods and landslides in the Maguindanao region alone, according to data released Saturday night by the Bangsamoro government. The number could only escalate as dozens more have been reported missing.

Paeng shows that our wanton attitude towards the environment – the destructive exploitation of resources and our irresponsible disposal of waste – has exacerbated our archipelagic nation’s vulnerability to the scourges of climate change, which comes in the form of deadly hurricanes and rising sea levels.

The massive disturbance of forests and mountainous areas, such as open pit mining and unregulated logging, weakens them and makes them vulnerable to erosion and devastating landslides. Erosion loads rivers and other waterways with silt, flattening and narrowing them. Even with a short rain shower, they quickly overflow and cause flash floods in many places.

Meanwhile, in urban areas, solid waste is clogging water channels, causing flooding even during normal rains.

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. According to experts, these areas have sunk and submerged over the years. Past typhoons have nothing to do with their downfall, but a vicious one like Paeng with a heavy rain load can exacerbate the deplorable condition of these communities.

dr Fernando Siringan of the UP Marine Science Institute said parts of the Camanava area, made up of Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas and Valenzuela City, sank between 2.7 and 9.1 centimeters between 1991 and 2002.

Meanwhile, the Pampanga Delta, a watershed covering parts of southwestern Pampanga and Bulacan, has sunk by 3 to 9 cm over the same period.

Accordingly, increased groundwater extraction leads to land areas sinking. Urban centers like Metro Manila are likely to decline due to increasing industrial groundwater needs and growing populations.

Now if you add sea level rise to this phenomenon, an aquatic world disaster is not far away.

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

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