Velez: Landslides, traffic and our growing city woes

BY NOW, traffic in Davao City's south side is "normalizing" after a portion of Diversion Road, the alternate route for trucks and other vehicles, has finally opened after days of clearing the road from the landslide.

But normalizing is hardly the word. Because traffic in this city is the "new normal". In the past couple of years, the influx of new residents, investors, and more cars makes us wonder if traffic and other woes are the price of development or having a Dabawenyo as president.

Last week showed how traffic and commuting was at its worst. It started with Thursday's quick heavy rain that immediately flooded some areas downtown that left commuters stranded. That heavy rain also triggered the landslide along the road-widening project in Diversion Road that led to its closure and brought us traffic over the weekend until midweek.

Those caught on the weekend traffic in the south like I did experienced the grinding halt. What was supposed to be a TGIF night turned into traffic hell of driving or commuting for two to three hours before getting home.

The immediate reaction to this traffic woe was to look at what triggered the landslide in Diversion Road. The road-widening project by DPWH was questioned by local officials. But the main fault lies on some housing projects along the fragile areas along Shrine Hills made without environment clearance and building permits.

Shrine Hills was already designated by the City Council as a protected zone in 2013 after a study by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau in 2011 declared no development projects or excavation activities should be done on the sloping areas.

The coalition of residents and environmentalists called Save Shrine Hills Davao are questioning why the local ordinance lacks implementing rules and are challenging officials now to act and coordinate all parties concern to prevent further damage that may cause more problems far worse than traffic.

But aside from looking at the immediate problem, there lies a bigger concern. Our city is growing fast. But are there measures made to keep the residents safe from floods, landslides, and other mishaps brought by urban growth?

The city used to be a place where residents live in the peripheries in quiet and cool subdivisions away from the hustle and bustle of downtown. But that idyll is now replaced by fast-rising buildings and road widening projects that are pushing towards the peripheries.

As Davao is one of the top cities in the country, we are facing the problem of urban congestion. Suddenly traffic is slower and the weather is hotter. People are worried that a little rain causes floods and leave them stranded. Communities are wondering if the next fast-food chain or mini-grocery would force them away from their homes.

I wonder if we have long-term plans to make our city as livable as possible.

The problem in Diversion Road and Shrine Hills may be our wake up call.

Officials and residents must do our collective responsibilities to keep our city safe.


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