Tuesday August 21, 2018

‘We’re on the cusp of a crisis’

IS Cebu a dying ecosystem?

According to Jose Gapas, co-chairman of the Cebu City Development Council committee on environment, life forms will be lost if rivers dry up over the years.

In a letter to Cebu City Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella dated May 7, Gapas said that 60 years ago, all the rivers that cross the Cities of Cebu and Talisay were flowing with fresh, clear water. He added that people used to fish, swim and wash their clothes on the banks of the Butuanon, Lahug, Guadalupe, Labangon, and Mananga Rivers.

“Today, no more,” Gapas said.

A study conducted by a German professor of the University of San Carlos (USC) in 1969 revealed that landward intrusion of seawater in Cebu City was less than one kilometer (km) from the shoreline. Landward intrusion or saltwater intrusion is the movement of saline water into freshwater aquifers, which can lead to contamination of drinking water sources, among others.

Recent studies by the Water Resource Center of USC revealed that saltwater intrusion is now more than four kms. from the shoreline.

If this continues for the next six decades, Gapas said, the landward intrusion of seawater may advance to more than eight kms.

If this happens, all the other flowing rivers in Cebu would dry up by then, he added.

Gapas said a factor to this is Cebu’s growing population.

“These are the challenges of our leaders in Cebu City. Most of the areas covered by the Central Cebu Protected Landscape (CCPL) are within Cebu City. The tributaries of the mentioned rivers emanate from CCPL. These rivers lost their waters because the integrity of CCPL is lost,” he said.

“When these rivers dried up, the life forms in their river system were also lost. They became extinct even before they were recorded and listed by our science institutions. They might have been useful and valuable,” Gapas added.

To “resuscitate” the dying ecosystem, Gapas said political will and commitment from everyone is important.

In Cebu City, Gapas said the City Government should ensure that all activities and programs for an intensive development in Kawit Island in the South Road Properties must go through a proper environmental impact study.

He said doing so will “spare Cebuanos from the embarrassment and sufferings of Boracay Island.”

“We in Cebu are actually on the cusp of an environmental crisis, but due to ignorance of an attitude of our natural resources and the environment, most of our people and leaders are not aware of it,” Gapas said.