Malilong: Examining our own complicity in the flooding

The Other Side

COPING with the threat of the coronavirus disease has so preoccupied us since March, we have almost forgotten that we have other problems. Then it rained heavily for more than an hour early evening last Tuesday and we found ourselves grappling with a perennial but oftentimes forgotten concern.

The trouble with flooding is that you do not know it until it is actually happening and there are no quick fixes. Unlike fire which can be doused with water from firemen’s hoses, floodwater is a stubborn mistress. We have to wait until it has run its course and its wrath has subsided before order is restored.

But that’s not the same as saying we cannot at least minimize the chances of it happening. For indeed, we cannot altogether prevent it; every now and then, humankind is visited with little remnants of the Great Deluge. Nature has been and continues to be relentless and unforgiving even to the powerful. Remember the US city of New Orleans in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina?

But almost always, there is a human component to the root of a natural disaster. Tuesday’s rains showed it. The heavy downpour was beyond our control but could the floods have been as bad if we had not clogged our waterways with illegal constructions and irresponsibly thrown litter?

The old Mango Avenue is not known to be flood-prone and yet there it was, Tuesday evening soaked in knee-deep waters. What happened? A friend says that a portion of the river that runs through the area from Lahug has been blocked by newly constructed buildings in the vicinity, causing it to overflow.

The morning after the floods, I also saw on the Facebook page of an assistant to Mayor Edgar Labella pictures of a huge pile of plastic bottles recovered from the city’s drainage pipes. Let’s continue to improve our drainage system, the caption said, but shouldn’t we also improve our sense of discipline? Good question.

Labella is already being blamed for Tuesday’s floods, which is understandable since flood control was a campaign promise. But apart from the fact that the pandemic has been a distraction, we also have to examine ourselves if we have not compounded the problem. By now, we should already know that Nature’s fury coupled with our irresponsibility are a lethal mix.

Speaking of the coronavirus, I read that we have finally flattened the curve in Cebu. I do not really know what the term means but since it comes from no less than the top health official in the region, accompanied by the disclosure that the number of Covid-19 cases in Cebu City has decreased since the end of July, I can only assume that this is happy news.

Still, we cannot afford to be complacent especially since the DOH 7’s own records show a steady though slight rise in cases in the city since the end of September. During the seven-day period ending on September 30, the total number of new cases was 53, with all but two days reporting less than 10 cases.

From October 1 to 7, the number rose to 71, with three days recording double digits. Then it went up to 90 from October 8 to 15 with five days showing cases in double digits, led by the 30 reported on October 10.

It is possible that the increases are still within the normal range and are not a cause for concern. Still, we should continue to observe the safety protocols suggested by medical experts.


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