IT’S difficult to work under the intense heat of the sun. And it has been hot in Cebu for several weeks now. Just walking on the street to go to the store or sweeping the yard has become a sacrifice. For one already with creaking knees or high blood pressure, taking good care of one’s body is an important reminder. But that’s not the only problem in this situation.
Prolonged heat affects water sources and for places with fragile water supply that is worrisome. The Cebu City Government did start distributing water to some barangays when water pressure in the pipes of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District weakened in some areas and water sources in some upland villages got emptied. It did rain a few times days ago but that wasn’t sustained.
Water sources in the upland barangays are fragile. Groundwater that supplies wells and streams gets depleted when rains do not fall for a long time. I experienced that when I stayed in the mountain villages of Cebu City in the ‘80s and the so-called El Niño phenomenon was initially felt. Farmers had to walk far to get water from the very few wells that didn’t dry up. At times quarrels would erupt when villagers got overly protective of their wells.
Of course, farms dried up. Even grasses turned brown. One could not hope to get anything from whatever was already planted, like corn, tomatoes, beans, etc. Mango trees, with roots that go deep into the ground, survived but those that already had fruits were affected. I think the Cebuano term they use for that is “hal-os,” when the premature fruits drop because of the prolonged hot season.
That was when farmers looked for alternative means of livelihood elsewhere, specifically in the lowlands. In places where coal was mined, like in Barangays Bonbon and Buot-Taup, the mines were full of people seeking employment. Those were among the worst times to be in the countryside.
Both Cebu City and Cebu Province have new chief executives, with Gwen Garcia winning the post of governor and Edgardo Labella winning the post of mayor. We hope they will be creative enough not only in finding a solution to the problem but also ensuring that their jurisdictions will be prepared the next time the dry season gets prolonged, an occurrence that apparently has become cyclical.
I think there are already a number of studies by experts and nongovernment organizations (NGOs) on Cebu’s water woes, but I doubt if government officials have taken a deeper look at these beyond a cursory glance. They have long been told, for example, of finding ways to trap water that runs off the ground surface to the sea when it rains, but nothing has been done in this regard. Perhaps the recent leadership changes will result in government finally heeding good proposals from experts and NGOs.
It’s just unfortunate that when the next rainy season comes, we still will allow the water to flow down the mountain slopes, fill up the narrow waterways and flood the plains before mixing with the salty seawater.