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Rough Cuts | Nature’s way of exacting revenge

Indeed, only fools will argue with environment experts that these days no single place on earth can be declared safe from the impact of the marauding disasters brought about by climate change.
The idyllic plains, the valleys that take away the breath of those who are in the highlands, and even the plateaus that are normally considered the “go-to” places when river waters rise are no longer guaranties of safety.

Yes, the plains and valleys these days are not anymore the ideal location in that line “Where we used to roam,” from that old classic song “Green Fields.” These areas are already the most vulnerable to massive floods.

Today as well, the highland barangays and other communities located in mountainous areas have become prone to landslides and ground subsidence. And yes, barangays sitting on plateaus are getting hit even by flash floods.

So environment protection advocates are right all along that our greed – our continuing quest for development – has made us forgetful of our responsibility to our planet.

Over the past few years government has implemented development projects in barangays outside of the main business and residential centers. In Davao City for example we can already see massive road concreting even in the farthest villages in the districts of Paquibato, Calinan, Tugbok, Marilog and Toril, as well as in the peripheries of the city’s more urban areas – the first district and part of the second district like Buhangin, Lasang and Bunawan.

The opening of the rural barangays of the city to the much improved accessibility, of course, is the primary reason why some investors are now flocking to these communities that to them are potential havens for their business operations.

It is therefore not surprising that large swine and fowl farms now exist in such barangays as Talandang, Biao Joaquin, Matina Biao, Biao Escuela, Bato in Toril, Tamugan, Dakudao, Pangan, and many other areas in the highlands of the city.

All these have brought substantial employment to the local residents and increase in the revenues of the host barangays. And another positive impact of the improved accessibility is the skyrocketing of the value of lands in the areas traversed by the concreted roads.

The same also triggered the mad rush of subdivision developers to locate their huge projects in what they foresee as new residential enclaves away from the hustle and bustle of the city center.

It is however, apparent that the trade-off of all these is the cutting off of thousands of coconut, rubber, coffee, cacao, and even durian and lanzones trees to give way to new projects. Even hill sides and what remains of second growth forest located along creeks and water tributaries seem unable to escape the negative effects of the so-called “development aggression.”

The consequence, we have clearly observed, is that there remain too little number of trees to provide the roots to help absorb rain water falling on the ground and seeping into the soil; too insignificant number of trees to prevent the mountain cover from eroding to the lower grounds, and too sparse the sturdy trees that can stop landslides where these are likely to happen.

Floods, landslides, erosion, storms, tsunamis – these are nature’s wrath heaped on us people whose greed made us tinker on God’s creation – even including our bodies — hardly considering commensurate mitigating measures to make all of our development endeavors sustainable and beneficial to our earth.

Last Wednesday late afternoon we witnessed how nature had exacted its revenge to the barangay residents, including us, who are beneficiaries of development projects put up in our area.

Yes, it is part of our routine that we go home to our rural residence in barangay Talandang in Tugbok district during week-ends, and every Wednesday in the middle of the week. Talandang is about 31 kilometers away from downtown Davao City. The rest of the days we spend our time in our house in Catalunan Grande some nine kilometers from the city proper.

During the last 17 or so years that we put up our house in the barangay, power was made available, the main road was concreted, piggeries and poultry farms sprouted like mushrooms, banana plantations were opened, and lately a huge box factory and a chicken dressing plant were put up in its boundary villages. Certain flat areas are now slowly cleared up and uneven grounds leveled up after these were acquired by subdivision developers.

So, when the strong rains started falling about 2:30 Wednesday afternoon and continued without let-up when darkness was setting in, we already started feeling the possibility that water would inundate the barangay road.

And we were right. When darkness started enveloping our surroundings flood waters were rushing into the roadside canals and filling these quicker than we could imagine. In minutes waters were all over making the road like a wide river. Motor vehicles, especially motorbikes stalled right in front of our house. Big trucks owned by a Chinese quarry operator in our barangay had to maneuver very carefully and slowly perhaps their drivers fearing that their vehicle could stray to the drainage embankments.
The ground surrounding our house already looked like a large swimming pool with murky waters and so much debris and other dirty objects floating. When the waters showed no sign of receding we had to shut off the power breaker controlling electricity that flows into two outlets located in one of the posts of our fence’s gates.

By the time the rains started to slow down, the flood waters were already “kissing” the last step of our house floor elevated by one foot from the ground level. Good thing that the rains did not pour again.
And then there came the other misfortune of that Wednesday night. Electricity suddenly went off. It was about 6:40 in the evening, and we haven’t taken our dinner yet. Good thing we had our emergency light that we had to make do with.

Without power, there was no light, no television to watch. So we were left with no other option but to go to sleep early. Power came back only at about 12 midnight. We could only imagine how disastrous could it be had the rains continued and the flood waters kept on rising with houses in total darkness. And to think that the barangay’s evacuation center — the covered court — was also totally flooded! How could such facility be designated as evacuation center?

And last Wednesday’s flood? Well, it submerged most of the city’s low-lying areas including Davao’s downtown. And for now, we have to resign to the fact that we might just have to live with it for the longest time.

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