Inhabiting the highlands-A A +A
Monday, August 6, 2012
AS OF May 1, 2010, there are 1.616 million people that inhabit the Cordillera region. At that number, the region’s physical environment is already overstressed. It need not be so, if we all do our roles to keep our highland abodes, not only safe, but a good place to live in.
A place is not really good if it is not inhabited by people. Since time immemorial, the region is inhabited by people. I say living conditions have become better up to a point where biodiversity was lost and the environment was already devastated by human hands.
But what do we mean when we say the Cordillera is a good place to live in? I presume we do not only take into account peace and order. There is more to spending life in the serenity and quietness of a mountain environment.
Our Cordillera is good with enough breathing spaces and food to live by; safe and clean potable water that you can drink straight from the taps or from the source; and, you can breathe fresh nature-scented air all the time.
Many of us in this age may admit that is a picture of the region’s pristine past and one that could not be attained with the current realities of living. If that outlook goes to a vote, surely our politicians would uphold it. But minus strict monitoring and enforcement of laws, we continue to endure the fouled smell of polluted air from industrial chemicals within our communities, human waste (urine and axcreta), and other irresponsibly dump waste anywhere, the burning of trash in the neighborhood, and our uncovered sewers overflowing in canals to the streets. It betrays our lack of sensibilities and respect to other people including the kind of leadership we have in our communities in the region. When our sewers have their own covered flow lines underground and separate from the creeks, stream and rivers and flowing down to where these could be processed and treated well, I just know we have arrived to living well as a community of people that truly upholds human freedoms and good governance.
No matter, how one looks at it, nature-care is always integrated to the quest of quality human survival, not just the taking of anything and all of it in our time. In our mountains, so much biodiversity is lost and generally only a few got rich. On the other hand, the local communities and those around are bound to get poorer and poorer still. Sustainable development and progress with our given resources has not taken root and built-up by the day. A rich land therefore marches into history being marginalized with its resources disappearing into thin air. We can no longer depend on what we got left so many of us look beyond the shores to sustain the kind of life we can no longer have in our impoverished land.
The lack of concern for nature-care is far too expensive than one can imagine. These past few stormy days, we were out in the field and saw how this is played out in our major highways. It takes millions to build a few meters of quality road in the ruggedness of our mountains that gets eroded or washed-out during occurrences of rains. I saw the cost estimates of reconstructing some five meters of a washed-out road from one of our engineering district. It was a staggering P1.5 million.
We are a region that gets a huge volume of rain water during the rainy season. This huge volume of water falling on denuded mountain slopes is almost certain to cause slides and washouts.
Imagine the cost of rehabilitating washed out or eroded roads during this rainy season and the years to come. The phenomena of road slides and wash outs will more than double given the conditions where the roads are built in our mountains. Will we continue pouring in money to constructing, paving and rehabilitating roads whose life span is as good as next rainy season?
During road wash-outs and slides, commuters get stranded; farm produce and inputs are not delivered and many livelihoods are affected. How much does that cost us highlanders in terms of income and lost opportunities? We are only talking about the road and the environment here. How about our rivers, inland fisheries and irrigation that gets silted and destroyed every year? How about farms downstream that gets destroyed too because of the cascading flashfloods that occur with the rains because there are no plants that absorb excess water? We cannot pretend nothing has changed in our time. We cannot live another day without protecting our remaining trees in our mountains; planting new ones along our major roads, and conserving our forests and watersheds.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on August 07, 2012.