Waters – in the wrong places

By: Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos - CDN Digital | November 21,2019 - 06:47 AM

Were you among the thousands caught by surprise in Tuesday’s thunderous thunderstorm and the deluge of waters that stranded many and created a traffic  congestion nightmare in the cities in Cebu, Mandaue, Talisay? 

As reported by CDN Digital,  according to Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), the widespread  inundation was not due to typhoon Ramon or tropical depression Sarah but ”localized thunderstorms.”

So much waters – but in the wrong places. They all go down, together with plastics and other debris, to canals, esteros, rivers then to the ocean.

With our country facing gargantuan water crisis, would we not wish we have reservoirs like what Singapore has? Singaporeans take water management and the health of their constituents seriously – unlike us.

Singapore’s national water agency, PUB, is a statutory board under the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources that manages Singapore’s water supply, water catchment and used water in an integrated way. It notes that:

“With an area of about 710 km2 and growing urban areas, Singapore lacks the space to collect and store all the rain that falls on it. Through a network of rivers, canals and drains, rain that falls on two-thirds of Singapore’s land area is channeled to our 17 reservoirs.”

Singapore has two separate systems to collect rainwater and used water.  

1. Rainwater is collected through a comprehensive network of drains, canals and rivers and channelled to the reservoirs before it is treated for drinking water.

2. Used water is collected in a network of underground sewers that lead to a water reclamation plant. Separate systems ensure that the waterways are free of pollution.”

Each morning, several communities wake up with no water flowing out of their faucets. This happens in premier cities of Cebu, Mandaue and even in Toledo and municipalities such as Moalboal, another leading tourism and diving destination. Lack of clean and reliable water is not only a big cut in the budget especially in poor communities but can lead to higher probability of contamination and health-related diseases such as diarrhea and polio, now making a comeback.

Water conservationists would say that we are one of the lucky ones receiving so much rainfall but alas, it is not conserved and managed properly.  

Despite progressive laws, we do not have a penchant for integrating management of our once rich and diverse resources in a holistic, integrated manner on an ecosystems-based approach.  Everything is ‘bahala na’ and sadly, people’s meek acceptance of the reality compounds the challenge.

A clear example is the “Build Build Build”national program, now used as an excuse to cut trees, despite our laws that require compliance to processes under the Environmental Impact Assessment System Act and so many other environmental statutes. There is either ignorance or indifference to consequences. “Removing the trees can reduce the amount of water stored in the soil as rain tends to fall and wash off the land as surface run-off. This leaves the ground vulnerable to erosion and desertification which can lead to drought.”

Local government units play a pivotal role in the protection or our finite, vanishing and impaired resources. Environmental protection is a service devolved to local governments yet, only a handful are truly deserving of being called champions for our environment and our children’s future.

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