Last week’s southwest monsoon habagat that was intensified by Typhoon Fabian brought more rain than the unforgettable Typhoon Ondoy, yet Marikina was spared from massive flooding.
The continuous rainfall at 2 a.m. last Saturday recorded at 134 millimeters in an hour was higher than that brought by Ondoy in 2009, according to Dave David of Marikina City’s disaster risk reduction and management office who was a resource person in my Teleradyo program Sagot Ko ‘Yan last Sunday.
He said the reason Marikina was not submerged this time in devastating floods is due to the dredging of Marikina River early this year and the drainage work done. David said the dredging increased the Marikina River’s rainwater capacity and velocity.
“Dahil po d’yan, ang mga komunidad po namin, ‘di na nagkakaroon ng backflow. Ito po ang epekto ng dredging na ginawa natin sa Marikina River at engineering works sa drainage networks in the city. (Because of this, there’s no backflow in our communities. This is the effect of the dredging in Marikina River and engineering works in the city’s drainage networks),” he explained.
Not having to suffer the same fate as what happened in 2009 is certainly good news for Marikina. But elsewhere, the Metro Manila Development Authority was alarmed over the trash that clogged pumping stations and drainages, causing floods in many parts of the metropolis.
“If machineries of pumping stations are clogged, how can they work properly… It will be a never-ending cycle. People throw garbage, then we conduct cleanup operations. It’s time we break the cycle. Let us exercise discipline in managing our trash properly,” MMDA chairman Benhur Abalos said as he warned that those caught doing improper garbage disposal would have to do community service by cleaning esteros.
I remember the time in 1986 when I chaired the Metro Manila Commission, forerunner of the MMDA. We had to organize and mobilize “Bantay Estero” teams whose primary tasks were to look after those who treated esteros and other waterways as trash dumping areas.
Indeed, the key for increased success of any flood-control program is the realization that perennial flooding in many areas is indicative of an aberration in our society: an undisciplined segment whose reckless apathy is the primary cause of clogged waterways, and negligent barangay authorities whose apparent indifference allows the crisis to worsen.
Once we realize the obvious—that floodwaters can’t easily make its way towards Manila Bay because drainage systems and esteros are frequently clogged with tons of garbage that also bog down pumping stations—then we’re on the right track.
If we decide to abide by what is expected of a responsible citizenry to bring about clear waterways, then the chances of winning the battle against perennial floods is greater. A World Bank study said clearing of waterways relies on continued efforts to ensure these remain clear of informal settlers who live along esteros and riverbanks and dispose their household wastes right on the waterways.
Most flood-control programs’ non-structural components like silt removal and widening of esteros are hampered by improper trash disposal and the presence of informal settlers. An earlier MMDA study showed that about half of Metro Manila’s 273 waterways could not be accessed, and most of the 659 kilometers of esteros are periodically clogged with all sorts of trash that raise the level of the waterway, thereby resulting in water backflow and blocking of rainwater.
The culprit behind such clogging— littering and indiscriminate throwing of all sorts of trash, particularly plastics, styrophor, and other non-biodegradable materials—should, therefore, be licked first.
With a disciplined citizenry taking a collective stand against irresponsible garbage disposal, all is not lost. Even the simple gesture of refraining from throwing on the street a candy wrapper or cigarette butt could go a long way.
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