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Dam overflow threatens 2,000 families in Cebu


EXCESS water from Buhisan Dam finds its way into riverbanks populated by informal settlers. TONEE DESPOJO/CEBU DAILY NEWS

CEBU CITY—Several years ago, residents of the mountain barangay of Buhisan in Cebu City used to bang metal objects or bamboo poles to create sounds to warn their neighbors, especially those living along the dam’s spillway, of impending danger.

This almost forgotten practice will be revived now, as Buhisan Dam is at risk of overflowing, endangering the lives of about 2,000 families living along its spillway.

Each community will designate someone who will bang used oxygen tanks to create noise once the dam starts to overflow.

Gremar Bareta, Buhisan village councilor, said that aside from being inexpensive, the alarm system is more reliable than cell phones or handheld radios, which rely on battery power, the first to go during disasters.

Residents noticed that the 101-year-old dam overflowed on Aug. 5 and 6, which also sent the Buhisan River downhill topping its banks.

The 27-meter high dam, which is being maintained by the Metro Cebu Water District (MCWD), the main water distributor in Metro Cebu, was completed on Feb. 11, 1992, to store water for Cebu City’s needs.

“People, especially the 300 families who live near the dam, are restless because of the sound produced by the dam’s water pressure every time there is an overflow,” said Bareta.

Charmaine Rodriguez, MCWD information officer, however, said that the dam remains stable. The overflow last week was a normal occurrence every time the dam exceeded its maximum water capacity of 200,000 cubic meters.

A 2011 study by the Engineering and Development Corporation of the Philippines, which did an engineering, geological and geohazard assessment of the dam’s immediate surroundings, concluded that the structure remains stable.

Rodriguez said about 10,000 cubic meters of water are usually discharged daily into the dam’s filter station in Barangay Tisa, also in Cebu City, for chlorination and distribution to consumers.

But relentless rains last week filled the dam, which also serves as catch basin for rainwater coming from upstream, she added. Heavy siltation in the dam and its spillway is also another reason for the overflow.

The dam has not been desilted since 2003. She said that as of Friday, at least half the dam was filled with mud and other sediments.

“MCWD has been wanting to desilt the dam already but all of the contractors that we tapped backed out because of difficulty of access to the area,” said Rodriguez.

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama said he will seek a P20-million appropriation in the 2014 budget to fund the widening and improvement of roads leading to the dam.

The city government, the mayor said, will also look into the possibility of relocating at least 300 families who live close to the dam.

Councilor Dave Tumulak, Rama’s representative in the City Risk Reduction Management Council, said some spillway residents complained that water pressure from Buhisan River is starting to wash out a portion of the soil where their houses stand.

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Tags: Buhisan dam , Cebu , dam

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