Wenceslao: Drainage

Bong O. Wenceslao
·3 min read

It’s a problem almost all local government units or LGUs are facing, especially in highly urbanized areas. I am referring to flooding. The attention given to it depends on the number of affected people and the extent of the damage wrought. When the rainfall was particularly heavy weeks ago, social media got flooded (no pun intended) with photos on flooded areas in the metro. The term experts now use for those places is “Iffas” or identified frequently flooded areas.

Frequently flooded areas can now be easily identified because of social media. The “Iffa” (let me use the singular term) in Barangay Mambaling in Cebu City became popular because it is, should we say, photogenic. The extent of the flooding was so widely visible it easily attracted Facebook attention.

I visited Barangay Inayawan days after that flooding episode and saw people apparently hired by barangay officials valiantly trying to clear a blocked drainage pipe that crossed the street. I describe the effort as valiant because the task was difficult. I ended up leaving the workers knowing the outcome: nothing could be achieved out of it.

Here’s why:

For one, the small drainage pipe crossed a street that was only recently concreted. The clogged area was apparently in the middle of the pipe. If soil clogged the drainage pipe and the soil was in the middle, how could the drainage pipe be unclogged without boring a hole in the middle of the newly paved street? The workers used an iron cable or “kabilya” around a meter-and-a-half in length to reach the clogged area but it was still too short for the purpose.

In the United States, or at least the ones that we see in the movies, you do not crawl through a drainage pipe. The drainage system is so big you walk underground. You do not crawl. Or use an iron cable to clear a drainage pipe. This is probably why there is now a preference for open canals instead of drainage pipes. At least these are easier to declog than those underground or hidden drainage pipes.

I don’t know what is in the drainage master plan crafted by the Department of Public Works and Highways for Cebu City in 2016. The drainage system proposed is probably bigger than the primitive one that was good enough for a newly urbanized area probably just after World War II. But Cebu City now is highly urbanized and part of a “modern” metropolis.

I am not even talking here of our rivers and esteros, which are clogged not with soil but with garbage. Unlike the drainage pipes, those rivers and esteros are open and visible. The cause of the clogging is easily discernible. But because we tend to look away, the trash becomes voluminous in time and clogs the waterways, causing the water to overflow the banks.

And wait. What about those illegal structures that cause the rivers and esteros to become narrow in some parts also resulting in water overflowing the banks, thus flooding nearby areas? What can we do with these illegal structures? For government officials, the question has always been difficult to answer.