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Saturday, 14 April 2018 13:32

BEHIND  THE  LINES

BY BOB JALDON

Los Angeles, CA. — Two years ago, Mr. Chito Vasquez, general manager of the Zamboanga City Water District (ZCWD), sounded the alarm through his American-intoned information officer, Mr. Edgar Banos, that water was getting scarce because of the devastating drought and that residents should limit the use of water. Thus, new restrictions were in place: limit watering of plants and lawns, reduce the number of bathing a week, limit use of water for laundry, cooking and washing hands, etc. I thought that I could also save water by flushing the toilet to only three times daily. If people living in the barrios do it, why couldn’t I?

The last time I talked with Mr. Banos was two weeks before I left. I asked him about the measures being taken by the water district to lessen the impact of a water shortage as the hot, dry summer months were approaching. Knock on wood. He replied, “I hope there won’t be any water rationing (again) when we get there.”

The point is millions around the world live without sufficient water. The best example is Cape Town, “a prosperous metropolis, a well-managed global tourist destination responsible for 9.9% of South Africa’s GDP, full of multimillion-dollar beachfront properties, art museums and two of the world’s top 50 restaurants.” Now, Cape Town is about to go under water because it is running out of water. Climatologists say that man-made global warming is a likely factor in the continued drought. The rain has become unpredictable. California, for example, at least for the 28 days that I’ve been here, has been experiencing unusual rainfall especially in the north. Good for the farmers, good for everybody.

I was told that it rained a couple of times when I left. Good for Zamboanga that “Mr. Development”  Celso L. Lobregat of the highly-urbanized independent City of Zamboanga has commissioned the conduct of a feasibility study for the construction of a water-holding dam. It will take years before the project is taken to the bank, but at least we’re seeing a positive development that in five years’ time we will have a life-saving water dam.

Admittedly, because of lack of funds, water infrastructure planning has been slow. In 1981, “Mr. Water District” Teodoro “During” Araneta, a 1972 Con-Con delegate together with Mrs. Maria Clara L. Lobregat, proposed the construction of a water dam in Pasonanca. No one really took him seriously, except for my late uncle, Vicente “Te” Jaldon, because the plan would have cost, at that time, around P2 billion. The feasibility study for the dam has been archived and stored in one of the steel cabinets of Mr. Vasquez’s office. The figures and the configurations have since changed.

The Water District has clearly struggled to keep up with the exploding population of Zamboanga. In the past, water rationing was the best prescription every time summertime came. Mr. Araneta then predicted that with the abusive use of water, Zamboanga will not have enough supply of it. He didn’t say when exactly.

Cape Town isn’t the only city that’s running out of water. Mexico is already experiencing water shortage. Officials in Melbourne, Australia have warned that the city has less than a decade of water supply. A report said that São Paulo was down to less than 20 days of water supply. The World Resources Institute reported that more than a billion people currently live in water-scarce regions and as many as 3.5 billion could experience water scarcity by 2025 If steps are not taken to conserve water now.

More important than a skyway that Mr. Lobregat has proposed to build, railroad tracks, and widened roads is the water dam. We can survive with limited electricity, if we get to that situation (hopefully not). Without water? Ask  Mr. Vasquez.