Defense against megastorms

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014


MANY Negrenses in the Occidental side saw what seems to be a satellite image at the height of Typhoon Yolanda.

The image shows a sliced pie that spared many parts of the Occidental side from the worst of Yolanda’s fury.

Many attribute the pie to the power of prayers and to a miracle. I cannot discount prayers for our salvation.

But having said, I cannot say that the Leyteños, Samareños, Cebuanos, or those who live in the coastal communities of Sagay and Cádiz were lacking in faith. In such situation, the faithful are expected to storm the heavens.

Why were we spared? Perhaps, we can also thank a natural resource, the protection that our mountains Mounts Kanlaon, Silay and Mandalagan as providing shields against Yolanda’s power-packed howling winds.

For those who are involved in sustainable mountain development, they would realize that height matters. Because of their elevation, our mountains can serve as a natural levee.

As the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) pointed out, “Mountains play an important role in influencing global and regional climates and weather conditions. By intercepting the global circulation of air, they have a decisive effect on wind, precipitation and temperature patterns.” (Why invest in sustainable mountain development, FAO)

Mountains provide environmental services such as freshwater, biodiversity conservation and hydropower to more than half of humanity, mountain ecosystems play a critical role in world development, says the FAO.

In the case of Negros Occidental, our terrestrial biodiversity can be found in the mountains. Our lowland forest has long been converted into the sugarcane monoculture.

Mountain people are among the world’s poorest and most disadvantaged.

Harsh climatic and environmental conditions, remoteness and often difficult access hamper development in mountain regions. Mountain people frequently face political, social and economic marginalization and lack access to such basic services as health and education.

Buffeted by climate change, mountain systems are essential building blocks for long-term sustainable global development, poverty alleviation and the transition to a green economy. We can ignore our mountains at our peril for worst catastrophes.

In a world heading toward water, food and energy crisis, sustainable mountain development is a global priority.

Yet in the Philippines, mountain people, the indigenous peoples and settler communities who are among the world’s poorest and hungriest, are key to maintaining mountain ecosystems and have a role in providing environmental services to downstream communities.

Failure to address their food security and livelihood needs will compel many forest-dependent communities to unsustainably utilize mountain resources for survival.

Mountain communities need to be empowered and their livelihoods improved, to enable them to take responsibility for the preservation of natural resources and to fulfill their role as mountain stewards.

What can the Provincial Government of Negros Occidental do to protect and develop our mountains? We owe the natural resources and their human communities for being spared the worst of mega storms that are bedeviling Mindanao, and Eastern and Central Visayas.(bqsanc@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on January 22, 2014.

Opinion

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