Towns and cities in northern Negros Occidental have been placed under a state of calamity following the floods that overwhelmed the areas on January 1 and again last weekend.
The cities of Talisay and Victorias were placed under a state of calamity last week and Silay is set to follow suit as thousands of families have been affected and damage to crops, infrastructure, fisheries and livestock is expected to amount to millions.
Unusually heavy rains in the affected areas caused the flooding, but given the successive weeks of floods in northern Negros Occidental, our government has to look into the clearing and dredging of waterways, as well as the maintenance and improvement of drainage and flood control systems that obviously failed to stop flood waters from rising when torrential rains pour down from the heavens.
Reactive measures such as evacuation centers and dole outs may be fine for now, but given the disturbing trend that started the year, it would seem that residents of northern Negros are going to have to prepare to deal with floodwaters of increasing intensity and frequency as climate change brings stronger storms and rains.
As affected residents of Negros pick up the pieces and recover from the floods, it has become clear many will have to prepare for the possibility of even more flooding in the future. It is up to government to prevent these floods that we have experienced to start the year from becoming a regular consequence every time torrential rain showers are unleashed on our land and waterways for extended periods of time.
Dredging of silted and clogged waterways needs to be prioritized. The restoration and rehabilitation of our dwindling forest cover will also allow our mountains to retain more water and minimize the risk of floods. The impact of infrastructure projects on the environment, especially those that could affect waterways and other natural drains, might require stringent reevaluation.
If the Covid-19 has distracted public officials from other duties such as constant evaluation, maintenance and upgrade of flood prevention and control infrastructure and measures, the first few days of 2021 come with a harsh reminder that these are matters that we cannot afford to ignore for too long.*