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Rough Cuts | Where CoViD 19 could hurt the city

Last week the Philippine Atmospheric and Geo-Sciences Administration (PAG-aSA) announced the official onset of the country’s dry season. Perhaps only very few among us Filipinos may have noted that particular news because our attention these days is riveted on the day-to-day development of the dreaded corona virus disease (CoViD 19) now putting the entire world on the edge.

The news on the summer’s coming brings back to our mind an interview one early morning on national television by GMA 7s Ivan Mayrina with an engineer in-charge of operating a water pumping station in Metro Manila. When the interview was conducted rains were still aplenty and people never had it so good in dumping their garbage in waterways and open canals. The pumping stations all over the Metro were non-stop pumping the waste water deposit coming from the drainage pipes and open canals from three of the cities in the National Capital Region.

The interview focused on claims that pumping stations are largely contributory to the immediate flooding in Metro Manila because when heavy volume of rain comes the pumps also conk out. While we are no resident of Metro Manila we are one of those who believe that perhaps there is lax in the maintenance of the pumps because of the tripping during floods. But the situation was clearly explained by the pump in-charge interviewed by the television reporter.

Yes, the pump operator could not have been wrong in saying that discipline has something to do with the conking out of the pumping machines. And he was referring to the people’s converting the canals and other components of the drainage system in Metro Manila into their private solid waste depository.

According to the operator, in his assigned pump alone, more than truck-loads of garbage are carried by the water coming from the drainage canals and deposited in the catch basin where the pumping station is located.
He said that despite efforts to retrieve the garbage, large volume still escapes the retriever screen. The garbage then eventually enters into the turbines and gets stuck in the pump’s impeller. As the volume of garbage inside the pump’s system increases the heavier it becomes for the impeller to turn. Thus, like an overloaded vehicle the usual thing that comes next is an overheated engine that eventually conks out. The driver has to allow the engine to cool down or replenish the lost water coolant before running it again.

And according to the pumping station’s operator, for the pumps to return to normal operation an hour or two is needed even as it might even take longer to clear the impeller of garbage that are stuck on it.

In the meanwhile, more and more garbage are deposited in the catch basin waiting for its turn to enter into the pump’s system.

Now, people in Davao City might ask: “What has it got to do with us?”
Well, we are simply implying that this early (or late?) our local government has to look into how much discipline is expected from our residents.
We know that years back there were frenzied efforts to make the public aware of the need to dispose of their garbage properly, especially the non-biodegradable ones. Emphasis was on not throwing them indiscriminately since the city has provided garbage bins.

But it does not take a serious observer to notice that every day in certain areas of the city some people still surreptitiously throw their garbage almost anywhere they please. And there are those who dispose of their refuse directly into the city’s open canals.

Personally, we have observed this undesirable practice in Calinan proper. Yes, we have several opportunities to walk through the sidewalks of the area’s major streets, and we see the condition of the open canals vividly.

The most silted open canals we have seen in that place are those along the road from One Network Bank (now BDO’s thrift bank) leading to the highway going to Malagos. The canal on the left side of the road is almost full of silt. So is the one on the right. Thus, the waste water is about the level of the road surface. But what is more disturbing is that non-biodegradable wastes are the ones dominating the solid garbage that are silting the canals; so silted that until last month when rains were still more frequent grasses were already growing in some portions blocking the flow of the waste water. Thanks and no thanks to the continued dry days of late, the grasses are gone. But of course the silts remain and the plastic and other non-biodegradable wastes are exposed and retrieved. And to think that this is happening in Calinan! How about the Davao City proper?

We are very much aware that the government is doing a lot of excavations in almost all areas of downtown Davao. The project is reportedly part of the government’s drainage improvement program to address the now alarming flood incidents of this southern metropolis during the rainy season. But what good will this drainage improvement program bring if residents of the city continue to wantonly throw their solid waste like plastic and other residual garbage into the open canals?

It is about time that Davao City under the administration of Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio makes throwing of non-biodegradable as well as those wastes that do not deteriorate easily in the water, a criminal offense.

We call on the City Council to revisit its voluminous files of ordinances to find out if there is no existing one in connection with imposition of disciplinary measures on persons caught throwing garbage indiscriminately. If there is, then there might be need to amend it so as to provide the ordinance teeth to confront violators. If there is none yet, then we urge the Council to pass an ordinance criminalizing throwing or depositing garbage in non-designated areas especially in the city’s drainage canals and waterways.

Perhaps, the lady mayor may now also look into the viability of putting up pumping stations in areas considered as the city’s catch basin for run-off surface water during heavy rains as well as the water coming from its drainage system.

Thinking about it later than today, and implementing a pumping station project three years after or in the next term, could be too late.

Or, if the administration officials think that a waste water treatment plant is the better option economic-wise, then they should hurry up with the review of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that the city is to enter with the Davao City Water District (DCWD), the agency that claims to be just waiting for the agreement for it to start the project.

Frankly though, we are afraid that the impact of the CoViD 19 pandemic could financially cripple the city into implementing such health mitigating projects as waste water treatment plant and possibly excess water pumping stations to mitigate floods.

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