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Saturday, August 30, 2014

ONE can always trust nature to remind us of some basic lessons in survival. The other day in Cebu, the reminder came in the form of a sudden heavy downpour that caused floods and landslides resulting in the inconvenience of many and the displacement and death of some.

Regrettably, one can also trust political leaders to fail to learn the lessons of nature. It was evident from last Thursday’s downpour that they have not put in place the infrastructure needed to cope with a two-to-three hour heavy downpour. One is left to wonder how unprepared are we for floods of storm-surge proportions?

The first unlearned lesson is obvious. We have not invested enough on structures to cope with floods from a heavy but short downpour much less on structures to cope with floods of storm-surge proportions. What, then, is the use of all those billion-peso investments on BRT, a third bridge, etc. when floods, because of inadequate drainage, will ground traffic to a halt and prevent any movement by people?


The second unlearned lesson is not so obvious. We also do not have a water conservation system in place as we simply allow floodwater to run wastefully down to the sea. We complain of lack of water yet we are not investing in water catchment or impounding basins that save excess water, no not for a rainy day but for long dry seasons. We have an ambitious trans-central highway project. Why can’t we think our way into planning for even less ambitious dam (or network of dams) project for water security?

Landslides remind us of the third still unlearned lesson that trees should be planted where they can best do what they exist for. Trees should be planted in forest reserves and watersheds, in hills and mountains where they not only produce the oxygen we breathe but also prevent soil erosion in addition to holding water and keeping it from rushing wastefully down to the ocean. They can also age and die in these places without harming anybody.

(Trees, therefore, that are planted for aesthetic purposes in parks and along highways should be dispensable when they grow old and sickly. They should be cut and replacements planted where they cannot hurt people which is, except for the intellectually arrogant or dishonest, outside and not inside a road.)

We have big billion-dollar plans for transport infrastructure but only half-hearted plans for water security. Why can’t our leaders not see that all these projects will amount to nothing without water security?

With all that rain, our leaders’ brains seem so waterlogged they cannot get their priorities right. I would dissuade them from accepting the ice-bucket challenge.

Besides wasting precious water, the ice might just freeze the water in their brains.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 31, 2014.


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