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EDITORIAL: Flooding and nature

AFTER 14 hours of incessant rains, 70 percent of Naga City’s low-lying areas were in virtual waterworld which prompted Mayor John Bongat to personally lead the evacuation of families in imminent danger. It was not surprising at all because the city is located right smack at Bicol’s natural drainage system which is the Bicol River Basin. Can we blame the cutting of trees that once stood on the roadside to aggravate the flooding, as environmental advocates suggest? Or Climate Change, geology and urban development for the severe flooding in the low-lying areas in Naga City? Unless it can be proven that the cutting of trees on the roadside caused the flooding, Climate Change, geology and urban development become the likely causes of the inundation that caught flat-footed the city government last week. In a study conducted by the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) of the Philippines and the BPI Foundation, Naga scored 6.10 in a scale of 1-10 to being the city most vulnerable to Climate Change among the areas studied. Nestled in the middle of the 317,103-ha Bicol River Basin, the drainage system of the Bicol region from Albay, Camarines Sur to Camarines Norte, Naga City is naturally vulnerable to flooding caused by run-off waters from Mayon Volcano and other mountains that drain towards San Miguel Bay. Coupled with the real estate and infrastructure developments that alter the natural catchment areas and routes of water inside the more than 8,000 hectares of land area, the floodwater in Naga City will seek its level down the areas made lower by new built-up areas. Flooding is not unusual to Naga City. But with the Climate Change that spawns super typhoons and heavy rains for days, the city must brace for more floodings to come. The growing population of Naga City that increased to 52 percent from 1990-2010, houses by 60 percent, and the continuing development of subdivisions in this compact city are factors that can make disaster management and risk reduction challenging for city officials to confront. Combining human activities and natural phenomena, the city government can only do so much to mitigate flooding in the large portion of the city. The challenge is how we can be resilient against the outcome of our activities and nature’s wrath because of the altered state of the environment and ecosystem. It must be noted that man’s quest to tame nature has a long way to go, if ever we can conquer nature and put it under our command. But for now, what man can do is to mitigate the fury being unleashed and diminish the degree of destruction it wreaks on our lives, livelihood and infrastructures. After all, man needs nature to live and survive and nature does not need us in order to exist. In the greatest perspective, the geological nature and system of the planet where we live in do not depend on humans for it to exist but it’s the other way around. Science has taught us that earth can exist without its inhabitants. Even without water or atmosphere or placed under highest temperature, earth will still be earth for as long as it stays in the solar system. Across our galaxy, earth is just a tiny speck of blue in the sea of heavenly bodies in the boundless universe which man has yet to comprehend. Until man understands the puzzle of existence, without invoking the name of God or super being, the battle of man against nature will always be on the side of the latter. As the song goes, we are just dust in the wind. We really do not know where the wind is taking us.

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