Consolacion project: Too costly, difficult for its own good?

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

Talks are rife among independent circles that the planned 235.80-hectare reclamation project in Consolacion might prove too difficult --some say next to impossible-- and thus too costly to build and derive any practical benefit from. And given how the project is seen to displace, dispossess, and otherwise economically dislocate hundreds of lives and dozens of businesses, it is a wonder why Mayor Joannes Alegado still supports the project.

The topography of Consolacion does not augur well for a reclamation project rising out of a bay. The seabed is naturally heavily silted and muddy from mountain runoff during rains. It will thus require a herculean task of massive desilting and mud removal all the way to the rocky bottom before any phase of the project can start, as required of any construction needing solid foundation.

Industry sources place the mud to be cleared at between four to five meters before hitting that rocky bottom. There is no way to build over mud without sacrificing strength and stability of the foundation. Assuming the LGU and its partner La Consolacion Seafront Development Corp. dig through five meters of mud, the total area they would need to dig has to be multiplied by 2,358,000 square meters (235.80 hectares to sqm).

That means Mayor Alegado and LCSDC would need to dig through 11,790,000 cubic meters of mud to find that rocky bottom. In the highly unlikely event they would be able to do that, they would need to spend hugely on sand and gravel to backfill the area they dug out. Experts say that for this project, they would need eight meters of backfilling to ensure it would be above sea level.

All in all, the LGU and LCSDC would need nearly 19 million cubic meters of backfilling material to complete that job alone. All that backfilling material will have to be trucked to the site. That will require a humongous number of trucks, all of which need to conform to DPWH rules that a truck can only carry 13.5 cubic meters of backfill materials.

It is not clear how many trucks the project can get its hands on to deliver 19 million cubic meters of backfilling. What is clear is that it will take 1.4 million truck deliveries, all of which will have to pass through the narrow roads of Consolacion, adding to the already heavily congested conditions of the area, and potentially destroying the same roads owing to the heavy loads borne.

There is also the critical environmental question of where and how to source so much backfilling material for this reclamation project. One is probably by quarrying, which means some mountains and whatever trees and other forms of vegetation that may be growing on them, along with the wildlife dependent on them for food and shelter, will have to be sacrificed in favor of the project.

Without those mountains and vegetation, rainwater in the form of floods will rush back to the bay and fill the bottom again with silt and mud, bringing the project back to square one. If Mayor Alegado's sole interest is the welfare of his constituents, maybe it is time he gives this project a long and hard second and more critical look. With a more open mind, maybe he will see the future of Consolacion lies not in this project but in his prudence.

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