"How did we get into this mess?"
The water crisis in the Metro area, like many of our problems like traffic and poor public transport, is the result of poor planning and lack of foresight by the government.
In hindsight, the problem should have been predicted and acted upon years ago but the government failed to do so.
We have been talking for years about climate change, global warming, El Niño. Our burgeoning population should have taken these as signals for urgent action. But no—we always wait for the problem to be upon us before acting.
Now, Congress is now conducting another hearing ostensibly to find out what caused the problem as if we do not know it already. In the Senate hearing the other day, there were attempts by water officials both public and private to shift the blame away from themselves. Yes, there were apologies but with a lot of caveats.
Yesterday, President Duterte called for these officials to Malacañang to give them their marching orders to solve the problem immediately. If they fail, government officials should expect to be fired, while private companies may lose concession contracts.
TV footages of people with buckets waiting for fire trucks to fill them up with water is a very depressing sight. For one, it is not good politics. But what could all the water officials really do? The water level in La Mesa Dam is critical and continues to go down. Rain is not yet upon us because of the effects of El Niño and there is probably no more water that can be drawn from the ground because there are too many wells already dug in the Metro area. Kaliwa Dam which has been delayed for so long will not come to stream for at least another two years. The prospects for an immediate solution does not seem to be promising.
How did we get into this mess? With all the causes that have been reported by the media and discussed in the two Congressional hearings, like lack of strategic planning, bureaucratic entanglements, contract delays, and the fast turnover of officials, nothing was mentioned about corruption as a possible cause which is probably lurking at back of the minds of many people. This must be looked into if the government wants to start with a clean slate so that projects can proceed expeditiously.
Metro Manila’s population is increasing way beyond the national average. It will be one of the most populated urban centers in the world. Even now, it is already congested. Water therefore like traffic will always be a problem that will have to be tackled.
Are there some doable options in the horizon aside from Kaliwa Dam and getting more water from Angat Dam? How about Taal Lake in Batangas and Caliraya in Laguna as water sources? Years ago I remember Taal Lake being mentioned as a possible water source for the Metro area. Has this been looked into?
A few days ago, Senator Vicente Sotto suggested in a TV interview that the government should start building desalination plants for the metro area which makes sense because whether we like it or not, this is where we will be heading in the future. We might as well start now. The biggest stumbling block, however, is cost. This is because the public has been brought up thinking that water is free or cheap but in this day and age, this thinking must change so that people will learn not to waste water which is not inexhaustible. Many do not seem to realize that although the country is surrounded by water, the land area is actually very small. It is only about 115,000 square miles supporting a population of about 105 million and still growing very fast.
Our freshwater rivers and lakes are not that large. Our longest river, the Cagayan River, is not really that long compared to other countries. Many of them are also polluted and need cleaning up. Even if our officials can come up with a minor miracle and be able to do something about the current problem, this will not be the end of it. It will be unfortunately a recurring problem.
For a quick solution, maybe we should also enlist the help of shamans if there are still some among us to do a rain dance so that rain will come or perhaps just pray hard for early rains.
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Without a lot of fanfare, former President Fidel V. Ramos celebrated his 91st birthday last March 18 reaching another milestone in his long and illustrious career. We all want to live long, happy and productive lives but not all of us make it. He is therefore blessed.
One thing about successful leaders is that they work until they drop. The great Winston Churchill was a well-known workaholic. He worked while in bed and when soaked in his bathtub. FVR is also a workaholic. He still goes to his office to work.
Soldiering in our country is not easy. It is a hard life for most people. For one, the pay before was not something to crow about unlike now. There were times when soldiers will think of leaving the service to look for greener pastures. FVR was no exception but he persevered and soldiered on to become our President. I do not know how future historians will rank him among all our Presidents. Unfortunately in our country, we do not have scholars and historians specializing in the study of our Presidents I suspect however, that when that time will come in the future, they will rank him high up there.
A very Happy Birthday.