Deforestation causes flooding
Published by the Visayan Daily Star Publications, Inc.
|NINFA R. LEONARDIA|
Editor-in-Chief & President
NIDA A. BUENAFE
MAJA P. DELY
ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA|
Dr. Susan Espinueva, chief of the weather bureau’s hydrometeorology division recently said that, man-made environmental changes, particularly deforestation, have aggravated the effects of the La Niña weather phenomenon that has caused the flooding that has devastated many towns and cities in the country. Espinueva says historical records and anecdotes from residents in affected areas such as Isabela, Pampanga and Surigao provinces showed that the floods may have been caused by deforestation.
Forests are critical in minimizing landslides and floods as trees prevent sediment runoff and erosion. Forests also hold and use water, slowing down the flow of rainwater downstream to towns and cities. Data from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources show that the Philippines has 8 million hectares of denuded forest lands.
Espinueva noted that the rains the country had been getting were within the range of rainfall of a La Niña period. However, compared to La Niña episodes 10 to 20 years ago, the impact this time was more severe and this could be attributed to man-made changes in the environment. To drive home her point, she cited the experience of residents living near the Pampanga river who have observed that rivers now rise faster than before. The scientist also points to the region of Caraga in northeast Mindanao, that experienced floods for the first time this year. Caraga, home to virgin and plantation forests, is an illegal logging hotspot.
As long as unchecked illegal logging continues to indiscriminately clear what remains of our precious forests, we can expect the symptoms to worsen even more with each passing year. It will not matter if we are under the effects of the La Niña weather phenomenon or not, but if we have no more forested areas to protect our towns and cities from floods, floodwaters will rise faster and go higher than ever when the rains inevitably come.
There is nothing much our government can do to stop climate change or the La Niña phenomenon but something should definitely be done about rampant illegal logging before it is too late. Our forests have to be protected and restored if our towns and cities are to stand a chance against the death and destruction that the rampaging floodwaters from a denuded mountain range could bring. If our government officials are too blind to heed the warnings, and with the floods that various parts of the country are currently experiencing, then we will surely reap the deadly harvest of their indifference.*