The cycle that must end PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 16 May 2017 11:21

BEHIND  THE  LINES

BY BOB JALDON

Red Deer, Alberta, Ca. — The Quebec flooding last week reminded me of the October flooding and mudslides in Zamboanga that are perennial natural occurrences — as predictable as the outcome of local elections. Everytime these calamities come, people die, houses are destroyed and the stubborn city government spends millions of pesetas to fix the damage. It’s flood, build and repeat for the people forced to live along riverbanks and near tributaries. Nothing permanent has ever been done to cure the problem.

It’s really disgusting because City Hall almost does nothing to prevent flooding in urban areas. If it has, damage-control measures have miserably failed. From Limbaga to Despalo (my classmate in grade school at the Ateneo) very little has been done to stop city flooding. As a consequence, lives are lost. In the city proper where water level rises, the faulty sewerage system manifests the dire need for anti-flooding experts to deal with the problem.

When rivers overran their banks, houses are swept away. The high waters mount concrete streets with filth gashing out of sewers casting an unhealthy environment. Enter diseases. And when it comes to overland flooding, past and present administrations did and do little to mitigate the risks. San Jose Gusu and the airport area go underwater every October due to strong, continuous rains.

Why is flood control so important? We will be federalized, like it or not, as this is the wish of El Presidente. We can’t wait for the time when state tax money would be used to fund disaster relief when the inevitable happens. Ask Dr. Apolinario, the assistant city administrator, for his count of households along the riverbanks of Baliwasan, Tumaga, Tugbungan that are at very high risk of flood damage. How much does the city government spend each year to cover some of the costs of flood disasters? Crazy! But it’s not and never too late to do something about it.

As early as 1980, Cesar C. Climaco saw the need to have an updated sewerage system because Zamboanga lies below sea level. But no effort was made to prevent, prohibit or discourage at the very least development of settlements in flood-prone areas. If that isn’t possible, those living along the riverbanks should agree that their homes and their lives would not be eligible for disaster assistance in the event of a killer flood. Seriously.

It’s still five months before Red October. The Albert Einstein definition of insanity takes center stage: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Yes, like a miracle. This is how we manage floods in Zamboanga mainly because of very poor land use policies, among other public policy foibles. This is what is meant by: there are no such things as natural catastrophes, only made-made disasters.

I lived for the better part of my boyhood together with some of my friends like Joaquin Wee and Eddie Cheong in a neighborhood that experiences flooding. As kids, it was fun to paddle a canoe on rising floodwaters in 1958 that stopped everything in Zamboanga, except prayers from the CFMers to the Nuestra Senora la Virgin del Pilar. Until now, those areas — Corcuera, San Jose Panigayan, Pilar, Sevilla, Gov. Lim and Nunez — go knee-deep in water during torrential rains.

Reducing natural disaster losses in Zamboanga means breaking the cycle of flood, build and repeat and taking a link out of the chain of events that put people’s lives and property directly at risk.