We are sinking

By Angelica Mirano

Under the skyscrapers of Metro Manila is a ground that is slowly and gradually subsiding through the years, this is because of the uncontrollable climate, but most especially, the man-made repercussions brought by the over-pumping of groundwater. 

We are sinking
Flooding in Bangkok in  2011. Photo: COMSEVENTHFLT
This is the phenomenon in which land sinks primarily because water that occupies the ground below is extracted by humans, faster than it is replenished by nature. This is one of the issues that seek immediate attention in our country, our land subsidence. The ground that we are standing on is now continuously and rapidly sinking.

People might quickly blame global warming and climate change for this. Although true, this is not the only reason to blame. Flooding has many more causes, including those trash or human waste that blocks the floodway, and narrower waterways and the excessive digging for groundwater.

Professor of Earth and Environment Sciences at the University of Illinois in Chicago, Kevin Rodolfo states that global warming and climate change truly causes the sea level to rise but only about 3 millimeter per year. But he also states that one of the major causes for the subsidence of land is the fact that groundwater is overutilized. 

This has led to subsidence since the lack of support below ground were decreasing due to excessive extraction of groundwater, which eventually results to flooding in most parts of Metro Manila. Groundwater is used for drinking by about 50 percent of the people in the country.

He pointed out that the big cause of worsening flooding is land subsidence due to so much withdrawal of groundwater. This causes sinking by as much as six inches every year.  

Metro Manila was devastated almost ten years back by a rainstorm, dropping more than 40 centimeters of rain over a span of 12 hours, Tropical Storm “Ondoy” has shown how our metro city has sunk over the years, but nature is not the only baddie in this sad story, the rapid and poorly planned urbanization adds up to the problem. 

Increasing population in metro cities is likewise suspect as humans slowly altered the city’s landscape. Either poor planning or poor implementation of regulations promoted development in flood plains, with many residences, along with their garbage, obstructing key waterways. Many of our canals are still blocked with trash and the floodways are still constricted by structures.

Data from the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority or NAMRIA shows that areas in Metro Manila has sunk anywhere from 27 inches to 53 inches or almost four and a half feet in the span of 30 years, from 1979 to 2009. And is still continuously sinking.

Signs of lands subsiding are also seen in parts of Bulacan, Pampanga, San Pedro and Biñan in Laguna, and in Rosario in Cavite.  And in Nueva Vizcaya, 15 municipalities faced severe drought in as short as five years from now because of dwindling groundwater. 

In East Asia, the same situation has been observed in Tokyo and Osaka, Shanghai, Hanoi, and Bangkok – also due to the excessive extraction of ground water. 

Based on studies, Jakarta is sinking at a rate of 10 inches every year – and that about 40 percent of the metropolis now lies beneath sea level. scientists estimate that almost all of North Jakarta will be below sea level in a few decades.

Addressing the issue, the National Water Resources Board or NWRB strongly recommends that we look for alternative sources of water such as those from rivers and lakes. experts have been pointing loud and clear that we need to find an alternative source to groundwater

The former Agriculture secretary and now president of Inang Lupa Movement, Mr. William Dar, stated that groundwater availability is now on a low level with severe drought intensity based on a research on a Water Summit in Nueva Vizcaya. 

Meanwhile, Administrator of Local Water Utilities Administration, Jeci Lapus, during a talk with Manila Standard recently, suggested that an in-depth study should be done for the groundwater to be recharged. 

This might be done through developing of water impounding stations purposively for the replenishment of aquifers. 

Huge investments is needed for optimum result and a long-term solution plan is likewise required regarding the problem.

Preparations for World Water Day 2019, with the theme “No One Left Behind,” gathered more than 30 agencies involving water in a stakeholder’s meeting recently.

Lapus says they are trying to extend to the farthest household in every water district, stating that everyone deserves to have access to clean water. Through this, the digging for the groundwater will be reduced once clean water from the surface will be available to all, and the as the administrator points out, this can be done only if there is a single conductor of all water agencies- the reason why the former Tarlac representative has pushed for the creation of the Department of Water. 

We are sinking
Jeci Lapus with Manila Standard tackling the issue on groundwater. Peter Paul Duran
“It is now up to us to follow suit -- better late than never. That’s why I’m using this opportunity to appeal to everyone to seriously consider and take steps toward this direction. Let’s not wait for ground subsidence to slowly and steadily creep throughout the country. Let’s innovate and embrace a more sustainable source of water for millions of Filipinos now and for generations to come,” said Jeci Lapus during his speech at the 40th PAWD National Convention at the SMX Convention Center last February 12. 

Topics: Tropical Storm “Ondoy” , World Water Day 2019 , Department of Water
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