Taming the Cagayan River

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Cagayan river1

People in Barangay (village) Catayauan in Lal-lo, Cagayan province, are agitated whenever they hear news of another weather disturbance forecast to hit northern Luzon.

The community of about 30 households that line the thinning patch of land between the national road and the Cagayan River has every reason to worry, as a minor swelling of the river would submerge, or worse, even erode and gobble up the houses.

Now, the river has come even menacingly closer at nearly 3 meters from the nearest house. During a recent typhoon, a mother described how she was traumatized seeing her backyard pigpen being swallowed by the river.

This was not the same landscape they woke up to everyday last year.

“Before, we had about more than a hectare of open land at the banks of the river below, which we planted with corn and vegetables. It would take us about 10 minutes to walk down to the nearest flow of the river,” said Femely Malana, 37.

For Catayauan, as well as the rest of the province, the Rio Grande de Cagayan—the longest river system in the country—has of late assumed a new character. From a majestic body of water that for centuries symbolized their social, cultural and economic well-being, it has morphed into a massive monster that ravages their existence every time natural calamities strike.

River potentials

It is in this reality that the government tries to redirect its efforts into further harnessing the river’s wealth and potentials but, at the same time, taming its viciousness and lessening the harm it inflicts on people in times of calamities.

One such venture is Project ReBUILD, which the government, through the Climate Change Commission (CCC) and with funding and administrative assistance from the New Zealand Aid Program (NZAP) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), launched last month.

“ReBUILD” stands for “Resilience Capacity Building for Cities and Municipalities to Reduce Disaster Risks from Climate Change and Natural Hazards.” Proponents say it aims to “improve the governance framework of the Cagayan River basin.”
Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/459953/taming-the-cagayan-river#ixzz2bGWykplk

 

Text and photos by MELVIN GASCON/PNEJ member

(full report published at Philippine Daily Inquirer 8/6/2013)

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