Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Sinking Philippine Cities: Not Climate Change; but Climate Disaster and threat to Humanity

Manila Bay @ Sunset: Wikipedia
Word climate change doesn’t convey its meaning. For ordinary people, who are not climate scientists or studied changes in climate pattern, these two words don’t represent the disaster it symbolizes. For them, climate change means, climate is slowly changing, earth is getting warmer by 1-2 degree. But this may happen over decades. So, what. What is the problem in having a two-degree hike in temperature? In a day itself, temperature varies more than that. If the selection of word is not enough to convey the message, then people often misunderstand the message.

Now let’s see what is happening in Philippines. Its cities are literally sinking. Her provinces Pampanga and Bulacan sunk around one meter since 2003. Just imagine what happens if a coastal area sunk by one meter. Sea water will come to land and ravage agriculture and drinking water sources, sea water results in corrosion of metals and other items, places will always be in a flooded state, residents will be forced to relocate to higher areas, slowly but steadily sea will claim those provinces.

This catastrophe is not limited to Philippines. Sea water levels are raising annually by 3mm as per UN estimates. You may be thinking 3mm doesn’t matter. But remember huge number of cities are in coastal areas and sea is on an inward march to claiming those cities.

In Philippines, main culprit for sinking provinces is heavy extraction of underground water. These provinces soil composition also doesn’t help. It is not that Mania didn't try to do something to stop it. They made moratorium on new wells in Greater Manila area in 2004. We all know what happens with these regulations. With just 100 staff - whose responsibility extends to entire country - failed to enforce the ban.

During this period, population exploded (almost doubled since 1985) and economy expanded (10 times since 1985) in good speed. Which of course added additional pressure on already sinking cities.

Philippines cities are not alone; Jakarta, Bangkok, Shanghai, coastal areas of Bangladesh, islands in Pacific are facing the same problem.

Roxas - Manila Bay

Never a Government Priority

People often failed to understand the gravity of climate change and heavy utilization natural resources. Hence it hardly ever became an election issue. Due to this, priorities became different and administrations ended up doing patch work to fix outcomes without fixing original problem.

This what happened in Manila too. To fix drinking water problem, government turned to one solution it now - massive dams. Duterte administration is in talk with China to build two new dams (which of course is controversial as location of these dams are in tribal areas.

I think China should think twice before funding new dams. They are already entangled in another controversial dam project in Myanmar and Chinese infra projects are not finding much favors in Malaysia, Srilanka and in many other counties. Can China, who dreams about a superpower status in future assume some more responsibility in funding these massive geology altering projects? Can they partner with Philippines and address these problems in a different way rather than simply pumping money to new dams? After all China's own dam building spree is now slowly becoming an environment disaster.

A better message

I don’t think governments across the world will address climate problems if people don't demand it. And people won't demand it unless they understand it properly. Here is where climate scientists come. They should convey their message to people in layman’s language, make them understand the gravity of situation rather than bombarding with heavy jargons and numbers. I don’t think sending press release like 1 or 2 digress increase in temperature is going to resonate with people. Make them understand what that 1 or 2 degree will do to their life.



1. Philippine towns are sinking even dead are drowning - SCMP

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