March 14, 2024 (8:00 PM)

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HEAVY FLOODS. Once a strong and heavy rain pours in the city, knee-high waters have become the common sight of Davaoeños. These floods usually leave the streets filled with garbages and homes damaged. Photo credits to Sunstar Davao.

During the last week of January to the first week of February, various parts of the region experienced heavy rainfall, which caused intense flooding in different areas across the Davao Region. According to the report by the Office of Civil Defense in Davao Region (OCD- Davao), over 3,500 families in the region were affected as of February 1: 2,103 families were impacted in Davao de Oro, 1,368 in Davao Oriental, and 729 in Davao City.

Before this, consecutive flooding cases emerged in Davao City last November 8 and 9, 2023, which hit seven barangays: Matina, Bago Gallera, Tugbok District, Talomo Proper, Matina Aplaya, and Maa. In the past, many similar cases of flooding have emerged in almost the same areas. In January 2021, areas in Toril and Talomo Districts also experienced flooding, with a total of 206 families, equating to 923 persons affected by the flooding incident. In December 2017, at least 6,614 families, equating to more than 30,000 individuals, were disrupted by the flood due to the overflow of the Bankerohan River. Another flooding incident in October 2021 reached Roxas Avenue and Buhangin District, affecting 400 families.

This long overdue issue of flooding has disrupted Davaoeños for so many years.  Many areas in the city have been very susceptible to flooding during heavy rains for over two decades. A lot of residents have already adapted to this situation and have accepted that flooding is a part of their lives while they live in the same home, but oftentimes, they still get taken aback by monstrous floods.

Joel Neroza, a first-year agribusiness student at the University, is one of the many people who experienced the flooding firsthand last January 24, expressing that although floods occur from time to time, he did not expect that it would reach their area in Guadalupe Village, Matina Crossing, Davao City. 

“Before the river dike was built in our area, the flood occurs from time to time, most especially when there’s heavy rain not only here in the city but also in the connecting river from the upper areas…We expected a flood at the river. However, we didn’t expect that the flood would go over the dike and flood over our area.”

Luckily enough, Joel was able to ensure that none of his valuables were flooded and was given voucher assistance from barangay officials the day after the disaster happened. Like Joel, many students, workers, and other locals have been experiencing flooding in the city. With no idea when the catastrophe would happen again and how far up the water would rise, they are in constant fear as their lives and livelihoods are at stake. 

Those affected by the severe flooding in the city have stories to tell. The impact of the calamity on the different sectors, such as loss of lives, source of livelihoods, property, and socio-economic infrastructure, will ultimately mold a culture of fear in the community. While some of us believe that this is the effect of the city’s poor water drainage system caused by garbage and substances and water runoff from the mountains resulting in a rise of river waters, could there still be a larger reason why this is happening?

In an interview by the City Information Office (CIO) with Atty. Joseph Dominic Felizarta from the City Engineer’s Office (CEO), he said that the primary cause of the flooding is the heavy rainfall, leading to water runoff from the mountains and clogged drainage systems. While these reasons are the most frequent when flooding occurs, it can still be shocking for vulnerable areas such as Jade Valley, where this issue is repeated. 

For more than two decades, flooding has been a significant problem in certain areas in the city, such as in Jade Valley Subdivision Barangay Tigatto, Davao City. Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS) Executive Director Mark Peñalver said that the unending flood in Jade Valley was due to poor urban planning and massive land conversion as the land area sits on an old riverbed of the Davao River. Like before, many places are flooded whenever the Davao River breaches its banks. 

Peñalver emphasizes that the situation in the lowlands resulted from the aggravated human activities in the uplands, especially in the forests (e.g., mining, deforestation, extensive use of lands, and other environmental degradation activities). 

“If we maintain business as usual, i.e, the government continues to allow mining, land conversion without proper planning and consultation, monocrop plantations, then we might be experiencing a prelude to a far worse scenario”

In a conversation with Atenews, the Tropical Institute for Climate Studies (TROPICS) Director at the University, Dr. Rochelle Coronel,  stated that the rainfall might be due to climate change, yet we still have to find the evidence. 

“Yung naranasan ba natin na ulan nitong mga nakaraang linggo ay kakaiba sa normal? Baka kasi normal pala ito, pero yung exposure at kahandaan (bulnerabilidad/vulnerability) natin ay hindi na akma sa nararanasan nating ulan.” [Does the rainfall we have experienced in the past few weeks any different from normal? Presumably, it is normal, but the exposure and preparedness are not suitable for the rain we are experiencing.] 

She further implied that what we received was prolonged and a bit of extreme rain, noting that our neighboring areas received higher accumulated rainfalls. On top of that, Davao City has a climate type IV (Modified Coronas Classification), meaning we experience rainfall almost all year long because of local and synoptic convective systems.

[Yet,] again, we have to check if the rain we received last week (January 31 – February 9)  is unusual and if the surface receiving it can hold that much rain.

Dr. Coronel emphasized that we are experiencing how exposure to disasters such as flooding has dramatically increased due to human activities. We might see this as “unusual weather conditions.” However, the fact that we are more exposed to disasters than before makes it “unusual.”

Hazards, such as extreme rainfall, are natural events. It is crucial to look into the vulnerability and exposure of the areas while considering the probable causes. Its heightened impact on agriculture, infrastructure, and livelihood would result in a more significant problem. The intensifying effects, as distressing as it may sound, would ultimately result in taking over humanity. 

The solution to the recurring problem 

As the climate worsens, the number of those impacted by the flooding increases. On the other hand, more and more aggravating activities are happening in the upland, not considering the ramifications it can have on residents and even those in far lowlands. 

Indeed, it is vital to consider assessing the risk of flooding. As explained by Dr. Coronel, there are a lot of factors to consider in order to determine the risk of flooding  (Risk = Hazard x Exposure x Vulnerability). Vulnerability comprises the socio-economic, structural, and environmental factors. 

“Trace where the rainfall-runoff comes from (river basins?), check the surface (cemented?, asphalt?, less infiltration?), and check the changes in land cover (e.g., Deforestations) and land use (e.g., land conversions, built-up areas on old river channels (oxbow) like the Jade Valley, conversion of wetlands into residential or commercial purposes).”

After assessing the risks, Dr. Coronel added that some probable solutions are nature-based solutions such as watersheds, forests, ecosystem services, and implementing masterplans and policies. 

Atty. Felizarta also proposed probable short-term and long-term solutions. He mentioned the importance of mitigation, emphasizing that the rivers and creeks are clean so the water can freely pass them.

“Sa mga long-term solution, naa mi nakita nga kailangan na gyud nato og mga detention pond nga in the meantime kung kusog kaayo’ng baha, atoang idivert ang tubig didto sa detention pond.” [For the long term solution, we saw the need for the establishment of detention ponds where, in the event of heavy flooding, we will divert the water to the detention pond to avoid flooding in downstream areas.]

A retention pond is a temporary storage area for the waters from the upstream during heavy rainfall just prior to being released to the downstream. 

Meanwhile, the Office of Civil Defence Administrator Ariel Nepomuceno stressed the need to formulate new policies and plans that will cover all major river basins, strict enactment against aggravating human activities such as mining practices, strengthening environmental protection, development of flood control projects and interventions, and relocation of susceptible communities.

While it is crucial to examine the issue, we must seek beyond the results and effects it has on humans by focusing on the solutions and reconstructing the notion that flooding is “normal” or it is something that is insoluble. This issue has affected many locals for decades but was often overlooked because of its “recurring” trait. We can say that when natural disasters occur, we must focus on the root causes of why and how we can mitigate the effects. While the leading causes of this problem are poor drainage systems resulting from poor urban planning, unrestricted environmental policies, and aggravated human activities, it is undeniable who is the main subject to take responsibility for. 

Consequently, with primary causes in mind, it is given that the solutions require significant planning, mobilization, and action that is sustainable, efficient, and cost-effective, which is why it is the authorities’ duty to think of the people, not only through the lens of short term after-effects solutions of the disaster such as assisting and clean up drives but also to investigate further and to take action on this matter urgently. 



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