MANILA, Nov 26 (Mabuhay) — The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) plans to construct six new dams that would control the volume of water flowing in Cagayan River and prevent destructive flooding in areas surrounding it.

During a Senate hearing Wednesday on the recent flooding that devastated several parts of Luzon, DPWH Engineer Jerry Fano emphasized that the “mighty” Cagayan River runs a total of 520 kilometers and traverses up to five provinces in Luzon.

He said six major tributaries flow to the Cagayan River basin and more infrastructure is needed to control the amount of water entering it.

“Pag may isang major storm event like Ulysses, sabay-sabay po itong nagdi-discharge and nagko-contribute to the Cagayan River. Unfortunately, isa lang po ang meron tayong controlling dam—the Magat dam that serves or at least control the voluminous amount of water that goes into the Cagayan River,” Fano said.

“Kailangan natin ng lima pa o anim to complement it. That’s why we propose dams to be constructed as part of our long-term plan,” he added.

Two of these proposed dams would be specifically designed for flood control while four would be multi-purpose dams that would also serve for irrigation and power supply.

Aside from constructing more dams, a diking system and bank protection are also part of the DPWH’s flood control plan.

At least 24 were reported dead after Typhoon Ulysses caused massive flooding in the Cagayan Valley region earlier this month.

National Irrigation Administration chief Ricardo Visaya reiterated that the opening of Magat Dam’s floodgates is not a major cause of the floods in Cagayan and Isabela.

More open spaces needed

Architect Felino Palafox, also present during the hearing, emphasized that the approach for flood control should be holistic and should employ both “gray and green infrastructures.”

He said there should be more open spaces, especially in urban areas like Metro Manila.

“Kasi ang cities natin kulang ng open spaces. Ang open spaces and parks, natural recharging ‘yan… Tapos dapat tingnan din ang building code,” Palafox said.

He cited for example the buildings in Singapore which are equipped with water-harvesting facilities.

“Pag may high-rise building ka malaki ang open space mo, eh dito minsan ang taas na ng building wala pang open space kaya hindi makapag-penetrate ang rain water to the ground,” the architect said. “Kulang na kulang po ang open space po natin.”

He underscored that these open spaces would also serve as evacuation areas when other hazards such as earthquakes occur.

Integrated water management

Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, meanwhile, sought a better mechanism for the coordination between different government agencies concerned with water resource management.

“You manage the floods, you manage the irrigation, you manage the water supply. If they’re not talking to one another and there is no comprehensive approach, eh di kaniya-kaniya tayo at kaniya-kaniyang gastos,” he said.

The senator proposed the creation of an integrated water resource planning and management council to be headed by Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles.

The DPWH, Department of Environment and Natural Resoruce, Department of Agriculture, and the National Irrigation Authority should be members of this council, he said.(MNS)

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