A 15-year master plan is in the works to rehabilitate the 137,418-hectare Cagayan de Oro River Basin in a bid to shield riverside communities from calamity, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said on Wednesday.
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said the integrated master plan would serve as an “indispensable planning tool” to guide the rehabilitation and development of one of the biggest watersheds in the country.
“We want to come up with a blueprint that is designed to save lives, property and the environment,” Paje said in a news release. “We don’t want another disaster as damaging as ‘Sendong’ to happen again,” he said.
In December 2011, Tropical Storm “Sendong” spawned deadly flash floods after rains caused Cagayan de Oro River to spill into low lying areas of the city. The storm left more than 1,200 people dead and destroyed P1.3 billion in crops and property in Cagayan de Oro and nearby Iligan City.
The DENR has created a five-member team, led by river basin management expert Diomedes Racelis of the Center for Environmental Studies and Management Inc., to draw up the master plan and ensure its completion by October 2014.
The team would also conduct a series of public consultations about the long-term plan, especially in identifying the root causes of flooding in the area, the DENR said.
“The study and the corresponding public consultations would help authorities undertake an integrated management of the river basin to better address problems such as flooding, soil erosion and pollution,” said Paje.
He said flooding in the area was aggravated by heavy rainfall and other extreme weather events.
The Cagayan de Oro River Basin is one of the 18 major river basins in the country, straddling most parts of Cagayan de Oro City and Bukidnon province. It plays a central role in the economic and ecological viability of Northern Mindanao.
Paje earlier announced that a validation team has been formed to identify areas to be covered by the massive reforestation program in Cagayan de Oro City, as mandated by Republic Act No. 10452.
That law requires DENR to plant trees on 3,000 hectares of public land in Cagayan de Oro City.