Land­slides, traf­fic and our grow­ing city woes

Sun.Star Davao - - OPINION -

BY now, traf­fic in Davao City’s south side is “nor­mal­iz­ing” af­ter a por­tion of Di­ver­sion Road, the al­ter­nate route for trucks and other ve­hi­cles, has fi­nally opened af­ter days of clear­ing the road from the land­slide.

But nor­mal­iz­ing is hardly the word. Be­cause traf­fic in this city is the “new nor­mal”. In the past cou­ple of years, the in­flux of new res­i­dents, in­vestors, and more cars makes us won­der if traf­fic and other woes are the price of de­vel­op­ment or hav­ing a Davawenyo as pres­i­dent.

Last week showed how traf­fic and com­mut­ing was at its worst. It started with Thurs­day’s quick heavy rain that im­me­di­ately flooded some ar­eas down­town that left com­muters stranded. That heavy rain also trig­gered the land­slide along the road-wi­den­ing project in Di­ver­sion Road that led to its clo­sure and brought us traf­fic over the week­end un­til mid­week.

Those caught on the week­end traf­fic in the south like I did ex­pe­ri­enced the grind­ing halt. What was sup­posed to be a TGIF night turned into traf­fic hell of driv­ing or com­mut­ing for two to three hours be­fore get­ting home.

The im­me­di­ate re­ac­tion to this traf­fic woe was to look at what trig­gered the land­slide in Di­ver­sion Road. The road-wi­den­ing project by DPWH was ques­tioned by lo­cal of­fi­cials. But the main fault lies on some hous­ing projects along the frag­ile ar­eas along Shrine Hills made with­out en­vi­ron­ment clear­ance and build­ing per­mits.

Shrine Hills was al­ready des­ig­nated by the City Coun­cil as a pro­tected zone in 2013 af­ter a study by the Mines and Geo­sciences Bu­reau in 2011 de­clared no de­vel­op­ment projects or ex­ca­va­tion ac­tiv­i­ties should be done on the slop­ing ar­eas.

The coali­tion of res­i­dents and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists called Save Shrine Hills Davao are ques­tion­ing why the lo­cal or­di­nance lacks im­ple­ment­ing rules and are chal­leng­ing of­fi­cials now to act and co­or­di­nate all par­ties con­cern to pre­vent fur­ther dam­age that may cause more prob­lems far worse than traf­fic.

But aside from look­ing at the im­me­di­ate prob­lem, there lies a big­ger con­cern. Our city is grow­ing fast. But are there mea­sures made to keep the res­i­dents safe from floods, land­slides, and other mishaps brought by ur­ban growth?

The city used to be a place where res­i­dents live in the pe­riph­eries in quiet and cool sub­di­vi­sions away from the hus­tle and bus­tle of down­town. But that idyll is now re­placed by fast-ris­ing build­ings and road wi­den­ing projects that are push­ing to­wards the pe­riph­eries.

As Davao is one of the top cities in the coun­try, we are fac­ing the prob­lem of ur­ban con­ges­tion. Sud­denly traf­fic is slower and the weather is hot­ter. Peo­ple are

wor­ried that a lit­tle rain causes floods and leave them stranded. Com­mu­ni­ties are won­der­ing if the next fast-food chain or mini-gro­cery would force them away from their homes.

I won­der if we have long-term plans to make our city as liv­able as pos­si­ble.

The prob­lem in Di­ver­sion Road and Shrine Hills may be our wake up call. Of­fi­cials and res­i­dents must do our col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to keep our city safe. (tyvelez@gmail.com)

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