Blistering Summer Ahead

by Juan L. Mercado

Floods from abnormal cloudbursts like Typhoon “Sendong” have ebbed Evacuation centers for flood victims are now drying out. Front pages and TV screens are now crammed with the technicalities-clogged impeachment of Chief Justice Renato  Corona.

“Dig the well before you get thirsty,” Chinese sages counsel. Summer 2012 could be long and blistering, given weather changes.

“Typhoon Ondoy, for example, dumped in one day rainfall equivalent to one month.  In the first two weeks of August last,  typhoons Kabayan and Lando, consecutively hit us, causing widespread flooding.

Now, is the time to prepare for water shortages that will surely come. Future summers will be hotter — and permanent,  as the equatorial “band of rain” shifts, altering weather, caution University of Washington scientists.

As ocean surface temperature rise, the rate of evaporation of seawater is faster. This results in greater condensation of water vapor in the clouds and heavier rainfall, cautions the report: “State of the Oceans”.

So, did anybody use cisterns, as required by the Rainwater Catchement Law (RA 6716)?

Cebu City, for example, splurged P142 million for a legislative building. That ensured upholstered chairs and air-conditioning for city councilors.  But it didn’t put in the mandatory rainwater cistern. So, when the water agency  falters, toilets won’t flush — until the fire department sends over tanker.

Nationwide, the record is just as sloppy. National government here set up foul demonstration rainwater collectors, of the  100,000 that RA 6716 mandated.  That’s 0.004 percent of target.

Not a single pork barrel centavo went for cisterns, although. 66 out of every 100 lack water.  Indeed, “the law hath not been dead, though it hath slept,” Shakespeare wrote.

Yet, water could  whittle infant mortality rates, hovering at 52 per 100,000. Compare that to Thailand’s 17. “These are preventable deaths,” this column noted four years back. (Dec 6, 2006).“The most fractured human right in this country is that of a child to celebrate his first  birthday”.

“There is flooding when excess waters have no receptacle,” Magsaysay Awardee Antonio Oposa has pointed out.  “Solution? Find or make a receptacle. This is a no-brainer.

‘Yet, if you ask Government people what is the solution to floods, they will give you a multi-billion response that needs elaborate pumps, massive construction works and maintenance —   which we Filipinos do not seem capable of.  Look at the  Manila International Airport.  The problem persists year after year after year after year. We never learn.”

Since then, there’s been an initial but still fragile reversal of near-blanket infraction of RA 6716. We have  “a more responsive government this time”, Oposa says.

Local Government secretary Jesse Robredo and Public Works secretary Rogelio Singson signed, on June 6, a little noticed but significant Memorandum of Agreement to implement the  moribund rainwater collections  systems law. The  MOA sketches out joint action from stock taking, providing technical help to securing funds in the 2012 budget. 

Since then, there’s been an initial but still fragile  reversal of near-blanket infraction of  RA 6716, Oposa told  “Viewpoint”. We have “a more responsive government this time”.

Local Government secretary Jesse  Robredo and Public Works  secretary Rogelio Singson signed, on June 6, a little noticed but significant  Memorandum of  Agreement  to implement  the  moribund  rainwater collections  systems law. The  MOA  sketches  out joint action from stock taking, providing technical help to securing funds in the 2012 budget. 

Credit for the slogging work in crafting this MOA also “goes to  Union of Local Authorities’ Monina Camacho Solicitor  General  Joel Cadiz”,  Oposa wrote… “We may submit this to the Supreme Court. It may well become the first environmental case decided as a ‘consent decree’.

Who knows.  As the the late Senator Barry Goldwater once mused. “A man will fight over three things: water, women and gold —  usually in that order.

Iloilo City council taken the initiative in considering ways to implement the cistern law. Cebu has an ordinance and so has Davao City.  As usual, ordinances are not implemented earnestly.

Nobody is interested, until the taps turn dry. The biggest opposition comes from water district.  Faced with wells turning saline, Bulacan Water District turned to harvesting rainwater — until the manager asked about income to pay off their loans.  End of the planning.

In  Puerto Princesa City.  Mayor Hagedorn wanted rainwater harvesting in his city — until the GM of the water district posed the same concern.

Rainwater is a primary source of water supply.  What keeps the river flowing is the rain and the stored water in the catchments or watersheds/ forest soil/ground water.  Stored water is finite.

Weather changes and the State of the Oceans report  “exemplifies the old adage about death by a thousand cuts,” the Guardian newspaper of London notes. “There is no single place to concentrate blame except in the mirror.”

“Traditional economic and consumer values that formerly served society well, when coupled with current rates of population increase, are not sustainable,”  it adds, “We need to account for the impact we have on the planet each time we flush a toilet, drink a pop, hop in a car, or eat a radish.  There is no shortage of solutions, just a shortage of political will.


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