Save lives and properties, stop logging and mining
The landslide that occurred in Biliran during Tropical Storm “Urduja” is one of the most destructive natural disasters that brought about unimaginable loss of lives and properties in the history of the province. Many houses crumpled, roads cut off, bridges washed away, sources of livelihood damaged, and many people injured, missing or dead.
People said the culprit is Urduja. Partly, it is correct to blame Urduja. It was the storm that brought intense and prolonged rainfall that induced the landslide. But, it was the landslide that moved huge mass of rock, debris, or earth down the slopes that perpetuated the disaster. In short, people are counting the destruction in Biliran as a natural calamity. However, some people believe that the landslide was further induced by human factors.
From the viewpoint of being a natural hazard, it follows that there is no way to prevent a storm or landslide. All that we commonly do is to reduce its impact by advising people to follow the disaster risk reduction management program of the community. The trouble with DRRMP is that people who are already used to frequent natural calamities no longer heed disaster advisories. Thus, the end result is the government blaming the people and not the calamity.
On the other hand, while it is true that landslide is a natural phenomenon caused by rain, it is also strongly induced by human activities like logging and mining. People of Biliran said that these activities are practiced in the province. Hence, these human activities must have been contributory to the landslide.
In logging areas, the forest cover is almost bare. The absence of trees slows down the soil’s absorptive capacity for rainwater resulting in more run-off water inducing soil erosion and landslide. Also in mining areas, the stability of the land mass is weakened because of the diggings. University of Sheffield professor Dave Petley in an online article said the key manmade cause of landslides around the world is mining. And according to licensed engineering geologist Jeff Grizzel from Washington, research on the effects of logging on landslides over the past four decades has shown that timber cutting on steep slopes increases the incidence of landslides. The primary logging-related factor that contributes to more frequent landslides on steep slopes is due to the loss of tree-root strength that helps bind soil particles together and reinforces the slope.
Therefore, if we can stop logging and mining we can help save human lives and properties.
ARSENIO UNAJAN BAQUILID, firstname.lastname@example.org
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