Water woes of Davao City

by Admin-Phmp

Text and Photo by Henrylito D. Tacio

Davao City, the country’s largest city in terms of land area, has a water problem. It’s either no water or too much water.

From time to time, the city is without water. When this happens, Dabawenyos almost always complain. Recently, a netizen wrote a comment about the water crisis the city was experiencing.

Mayor Sebastian “Baste” Duterte responded, which was posted in social media. The reply irked some people who read it and bashed the mayor. It was expected: criticism begets criticism.

The water crisis is a brainer. A study done by Japan International Cooperation Agency more than two decades ago listed Davao City as one of the nine “critical water areas,” along with Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, Baguio, Angeles, Bacolod, Iloilo, Cagayan de Oro, and Zamboanga.

With the ever-increasing population and more infrastructures, malls, and residential areas being built, expect the water crisis to be a way of life. More problems are coming: energy crisis and traffic woes.

Last September 28, Davao City was awash with water due to heavy rain. Again, people complained. Some parts of the city were inundated. One netizen, who had waited since 4:30 in the afternoon for a jeep, was stranded. She was hungry and tired. “The vehicles are always full, and the water is from the knees already,” she cried.

It wasn’t the first time that the city was under water. Floods seem to be a way of life now. “The downpour of rain is unprecedented,” said one flood victim some years ago. “The rain came without warning. When we woke up in the morning, there was intermittent heavy rain and I thought that it was seasonal – indeed the rainfall throughout this year has been quite heavy, unlike during the last three years. The rain water reached two feet on the main streets. I couldn’t drive, there was water everywhere.”

A friend from Manila, who wants to settle in the city, sent me a video where some vehicles passing the highway located at La Verna Hills in Buhangin were stranded; some were even submerged due to the ongoing flood.

“Doesn’t the local government unit dredge creeks and rivers over there?” my friend inquired.

Dredging, if you care to know, is “the removal of sediments and debris from the bottom of rivers, harbors and other water bodies.” It is a tedious requirement in waterways because sedimentation – the natural process of sand and silt washing downstream – progressively plugs channels and harbors.

Since I am not from Davao City myself, I wasn’t able to answer him immediately. I tried to do thorough research on the subject.

“The flooding problem of Davao City has been prevalent as early as the late 1970s,” wrote Vic N. Sumalinog, a columnist of Mindanao Times. “But over the last fifteen years, floods have exacted heavy grave damage to the population and even on government infrastructures.”

Those routine floods sometimes take place in the three major river basins of the city: Davao River, Matina River, and Talomo River.

“Perhaps the local leaders may already have realized that it has become doubly expensive to undertake stop-gap measures in addressing the flooding problem, and getting more expensive in rehabilitating the same both for the city and the people…” Sumalinog wrote.

In 2012, the city government reportedly planned to purchase a dredging machine “to address the possible flooding in areas near the riverbanks.” Once it has acquired the machine, it would “start cleaning up waterways and rivers in the city to prevent flash floods in disaster-prone areas.”

In 2018, in a report released by Philippine News Agency quoted the Interface Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS) thanking then city mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio for planning to desilt and dredge Davao City’s waterways.

Duterte signed Executive Order No. 09 “to desilt within the watershed areas to address the heavy siltation problem in rivers and streams.”

Early this year, the Department Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Davao dredged the following rivers: Davao River, Mandug River, Matina Pangi River, and Lanang River, according to a Sunstar Davao news item.

Dredging is also done regularly in the residential areas in La Verna. The said activity is conducted in tandem with the local government unit.

But the question remains: Will Davao City be inundated forever?

A flood hazard mapping and vulnerability analysis was undertaken for Davao City by Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA). Based on the information gathered from actual interviews, surveys, and topographic and geomorphologic analysis, barangays that are prone to flooding have been identified on the alluvial floodplain of Davao and Talomo Rivers.

These include the barangays of City Poblacion District: 1, 2, 5, 8, 9 12, 19, 21, 22, 23, and 40-D; Talomo District; Talomo Proper, Bucana, Ma-am Matina Crossing, Matina Aplaya, Bago Aplaya; Buhangin District: Tigatto, Buhangin Mandug, Waan and Callawa; Agdao District: Agdao, Gov. Vicente Duterte, Centro and Lapu-Lapu; and Tugbok District: New Valencia, Talandang, and New Carmen.

“Their geographical location, being close to Davao Gulf and river channels make them highly vulnerable to flood hazard,” the weather bureau said.

No water or too much water – which do you prefer? 

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