Development re-planning ‘a must to address flooding’

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Sunday, September 30, 2012


LANKY 11-year-old Noel shyly queues in a long line composed mostly of mothers waiting to receive their food packs as aid for families affected by flood in Barangay Vitali in Zamboanga City last September 26.

Some mothers egged Noel to come forward the time his mother's name was called, to which he was obliged and adamantly received the food pack consisting two-kilogram rice, two noodle packs, and a can of sardines.

Noel, with a hint of smile, murmurs, "Gracias (thank you)" and went out of the barangay hall where the food distribution was conducted.

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The food pack is not enough to compensate the losses by the families affected by the recent flood but certainly provides relief, at least.

Forty-year-old Jessebel Quijano of sitio Bataan in Barangay Vitali was magnanimous in saying that "this is just small amount from Atro but helps us a lot."

By Atro, the 43-year-old mother of three, was referring to Atro Mining-Vitali Inc., which sponsored the food distribution in cooperation with the Barangay Government of Vitali.

Some 260 families benefitted from the relief operation.

In other villages of the city, similar relief operations were conducted after the City Council agreed last September 24 to place Zamboanga City under a state of calamity. Seventeen villages in the city were submerged by flood spawned by Typhoon Lawin (international codename: Jelawat).

Mayor Celso Lobregat had put the number of families affected by flood at 2,000.

The City Government report showed initial damage to 1,000 hectares of fishponds, 84 hectares of rice farms, 21 hectares planted to vegetables, 15 hectares of corn farms, and 55 hectares of seaweed plantations.

The impact of the calamity on the local economy has yet to be determined, Lobregat told local media.

Three days of continued rain inundated many areas in the city and some parts of Zamboanga Peninsula.

The town of Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte was also placed under a state of calamity, with 20 of the 26 barangays inundated.

"The recent floods in Vitali and some other areas point primarily to the need for an immediate, more comprehensive and pro-active approach to solve it," said Elson S. Ogario, president of Atro Mining.

The mining executive cited, for instance, that Vitali area is a "logged over area" where unabated illegal logging caused the denudation of the forested mountain.

An environment official confirmed this observation.

Forester Pilarito Montebon, of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro)-East, said Vitali is one of the three hotspots where illegal cutting of trees persists. The other two barangays are Curuan and Sibulao, all located on the eastern part of the city.

The presence of Atro Mining, according to Ogario, is an advantage to the government's environmental campaign.

"Part of the company's social development program is the information and education campaign to educate the people residing within the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) on the importance of responsible utilization of trees," the mining executive revealed.

The mining company spearheaded the solid waste management campaign in the community.

In addition, Vitali is flood zone area, according to the assessment by the regional Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), and the catch basins are narrower to hold thousands of liters of water. It has a drainage area of 211 square kilometers over a 23-kilometer stream length.

But the tasks of environment promotion and protection must begin at the development planning level, he pointed out.

"Recent studies have shown that flooding even in cities and highly urbanized areas is caused by unplanned development itself," Ogario said.

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) reported: "As the urban sprawl of rapid urbanization expands outwards and upwards, it provides ready opportunities for hazards such as floods, storms and earthquakes to wreak havoc. Half the world's population now lives in urban areas, and that figure is estimated to rise 70 percent by 2050. That's a lot of vulnerable and exposed people given that urban floods will represent the lion's share of total flood impact because of infrastructure, institutions and processes that are not yet up to the task ahead,"

UNISDR chief Margareta Wahlström said government and communities must realize that measures to address the problem of flooding are no longer effective.

The Wahlstrom's report resonates with the findings of the World Bank and the “Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction, Cities and Flooding -- A Guide to Integrated Urban Flood Risk Management for the 21st Century,” which states that "poorly planned and managed urbanization contributes to the growing flood hazard due to unsuitable land use change. As cities and towns swell and grow outwards to accommodate population increase, large-scale urban expansion often occurs in the form of unplanned development in floodplains, in coastal and inland areas, as well as in other flood prone areas."

These reports, according to Ogario, teach us that "to effectively address the problem of flooding is for us, community and government, to sit down together" to come up with an improved development plans.

He also noted that some local governments have yet to update their development plans to keep abreast of the changing times.

Atro Mining launched September 22 its Adopt-A-River project with the Barangay Government of Vitali and the regional office of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) by spearheading the one-day river clean-up.

Some 300 kilograms of assorted garbage and two metric tons of river sediments were collected from Vitali River.

Atro Mining-Vitali Inc., an iron ore mining company, is still in its exploration stage. It has a Mines Operating Agreement with Hard Rock Mineral Trading Inc., which grants exclusive rights to conduct mining operations within the MPSA area.

The MPSA area has a total area of 2,077.3084 hectares located at Upper Tagpangi, Vitali, Zamboanga City.

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