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Rising sea levels and now, sinking lands

ROSES & THORNS - Alejandro R. Roces () - August 2, 2008 - 12:00am

They tell us one of the world’s problems is global warming, but here the floods are threatening. With the onset of the rainy season and the passing of the storms Frank, Cosme, Helen and Igme these past few weeks, it was observed that the floods seemed to have gotten worse, especially in Metro Manila. Floods now occur during high tides and the floodwaters stay for several weeks, even months, even without rains. And this is not only because of the rising sea levels. A Filipino scientist, Dr. Fernando Siringan of the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute, attributes the worsening floods to “the lowering of lands over very large areas”, which means that Metro Manila is sinking at an increasing rate. He reported that the sinking of land is found to result mostly from the increasing rate of groundwater withdrawal as people in areas unserviced by water companies extract or pump out water from the ground, create small reservoirs and groundwater-replenishing structures to ensure continuous water supply. Excessive pumping of groundwater results to a decline in the water table, sinking land and increase in earth fissures. These human practices actually damage the natural cycle of things in the environment as nature is forced to do something beyond its normal course.

When typhoon Frank hit our country last June, several provinces in Central Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao were severely affected. The worst hit was Iloilo, which was practically submerged in water, a calamity which the people considered a phenomenon, as it was the first in its history. I was in touch with some people who did some relief work in two parishes covering 26 hard-hit barangays. Their account was that rivers overflowed and joined together, covering the land in deep waters and reaching the rooftops of houses and buildings. The waters stayed one to two days, but when they receded, knee-deep thick mud and silt covered most rice fields, rendering them unfit for harvest. The mud came not only from the severely eroded mountain ranges in Central Iloilo, but also from the fissuring soil from the lowlands and fields. Some reported that waters were trapped in eroded areas that acted as dams for a while and then later on gave way, hence floodwaters came with thick mud. Despite the outpouring of donations and relief goods from donors, local and foreign aids agencies, thousands of families are still in need of continuing food donations and housing materials as crops and houses were destroyed. These people also need help in starting other forms of livelihood as most of the land cannot be used for growing crops.

The best practices in disaster control and management and the best precautionary measures cannot stop calamity that results from ecological damage brought about by human abuse. With these reports, we realize that land also gets “stressed” and reacts with damaging force to the detriment of human beings. Until we learn to be more responsible and careful of our God-given resources, we will continue to be taken aback by the wrath of nature. Let us learn our lessons well and be more proactive and the local government units must take an active and immediate lead.

 

A FILIPINO CENTRAL ILOILO CENTRAL LUZON COSME DR. FERNANDO SIRINGAN OF THE UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES MARINE SCIENCE INSTITUTE HELEN AND IGME ILOILO METRO MANILA PLACE
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