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Nature as solution to ‘river issues’

12:03 AM February 08, 2017

Lately, our lawmakers have been proposing different measures to increase government funds—one is thinking of taxing beauty products; another is calling for more vigilance against pilferages and leakages in the Bureau of Customs and the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

May I add one other suggestion: Let’s save on public works projects. Let’s look into the appropriateness of a project or of spending for it.

For example: Currently under construction is the massive riverbank revetment project along Marikina River, just below Tumana Bridge in Barangay Tumana, extending to Barangay Malanday and Barangay Tañong. Steel sheets, drilled along the banks to prevent soil erosion, are being complemented by large-scale cementing of the slopes of the riverbanks (both sides).

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Called River Improvement: Construction of Bank/Slope Protection, this is a project of Department of Public Works and Highways-Unified Project Management Office-Flood Control Management Cluster. The portion of the project below Tumana Bridge, contracted to Towking Construction, has already cost P345 million. The one in Malanday, which has been jointly contracted to E.M. Cuerpo Inc. and MSB Vitug Construction, costs P233 million.

The DPWH would be spending much, much less if it had resorted to planting the riverbanks with different bamboo species, which would cost only a fraction of the huge allotments. This is what the Villar Foundation did at the Las Piñas-Zapote River.

To prevent river overflow, siltation and soil erosion, Villar Foundation settled on a most practicable solution: coco nets with bamboos planted on its eyelets. The 20-km length of the river is now planted to 10,000 bamboo culms and practically transformed into a “bambusetum,” or a bamboo garden planted to around 40 bamboo species, the Dendrocalamus asper (giant bamboo) and Bambusa blumeana (kawayan tinik) among them leading the count.

That project does the following: 1) addresses flooding/soil erosion (a one-hectare bamboo grove can hold 4,000 tons of water; the roots of a bamboo plant can hold four cubic meters of soil); 2) helps minimize the impact of global warming (a bamboo plant sequesters CO2 eight times better than trees; 3) contributes to achieving an inclusive economy (bamboos are used as raw materials for the parol livelihood project of informal settlers living near the river); 4) boosts biodiversity (with a wide variety of bamboo species, the bambusetum will eventually harbor more life forms, resulting in a better, more wholesome environment); 5) provides a solution cheaper than “ripraps” and concrete dikes—the cheapest solution, in fact, and very doable.

The flooding problem in Marikina is mainly due to the denudation of the Marikina Watershed. There simply is nothing much to hold the rain, that’s why Marikina River overflows.

Call it coincidence: Mark Villar, the son of the founders of Villar Foundation, now sits as the public works secretary. I hope he takes a look at all river rehabilitation/revetment projects of the DPWH.

Time to use nature as the best and cheapest solution to “river issues.”

CHESTER C. CHANG, Barangay Tañong, Marikina City

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TAGS: Bureau of Customs, Bureau of Internal Revenue, DPWH, environment, letter, Letter to the Editor, opinion, project, taxes
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