River clean up PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 01 May 2016 14:48

BEHIND  THE  LINES

BY BOB JALDON

San Jose, CA. — The rosy month of May has begun. That means that El Niño is about to pass and focus by the city government should shift to cleaning up the river beds of debris and relocating stubborn river bank dwellers to higher and safer grounds.

When was the last time Tumag river, all the way to Sucabon, to the mouth of the river in Cawa-Cawa, was dredged? Two former mayors did it — Cesar C. Climaco and Celso L. Lobregat. In 1981, Climaco, together with then City Engineer Ning Solis and with the help of some private contractors, dug up tons of hazardous materials and bio wastes in Tumaga, Pasonanca and Sucabon creek. City Engineer Luis Despalo was a witness to this environmental endeavor when he was then Solis’s assistant. The last time the waterfront market was hosed with the help of the fire department was also in 1981.

During his first term as mayor, Mr. Lobregat initiated a river clean up and dubbed it “rio limpio, rio vivo.” I vividly remember Mr. Lobregat pushing then Councilor Cesar “Sang” Jimenez, like kids, into Tumaga river — for media purposes. That’s how sensitive Mr. Lobregat was to the state of our rivers.

Since then, two deadly floods struck the city in five years. The disaster even shut down the airport runway for one day paralyzing flight operations. The rising waters washed away dozens of houses built along the river beds and tributaries. Predictions of storms that could fill the rivers with devastating flows and raging current are reasons enough for the city government to act steadfastly by forcing people to evacuate this early.

If disaster prevention is a priority to save lives, then this mandatory mandate of relocating river bed dwellers must be enforced. Public safety cannot simply come to a halt because there’s an election coming. Civic organizations and outreach teams must be mobilized to clean the rivers.

The city has never been successful in relocating river bed dwellers. After a deadly flood, they reappear. It’s about time that the city council should enact an ordinance (if there is none yet) declaring living along riverbanks and tributaries illegal. It is the responsibility of the state to safeguard people’s lives.

The city government should start dredging our river beds now — ahora mismo. It should achieve long-term reduction of pollutants flowing into the rivers. The city government should also have a catch system to keep trash, like plastics, out. People should also be prohibited from using the rivers as toilets. Eviction from riverbanks and tributaries must be permanent.

In the 50s and 60s, Sucabon creek had a mini-waterfall. The kids, like me, swam in the river that was crystal clear. The adults would go fishing for “pantat” and “dalag”. There were no environmental concerns then. That mini-waterfall disappeared because the river bed got covered with debris.

Each barangay where Tumaga river flows must have its own river protection law. With our rivers clean, the herons and wild ducks will be back. Then, my grandchildren can swim in Sucabon creek like I did.