Clearing rivers of water hyacinths no easy task

    CITY OF SAN FERNANDO – The fragility of its white and lavander flowers belies its density in clumps. Its invasiveness, swift and expansive, covering rivers and creeks, and impacting water flow.

    That is the water hyacinth – scientifi c name: Eichhornia crassipes – tagged by both Mayor Edwin Santiago and former city anti-fl ooding tsar Engr. Marni Castro as the primary cause of fl ooding in the city.

    On Monday, Castro accompanied Sto. Tomas Mayor Johnny A. Sambo, Public Works Region 3 director Antonio Molano, Pampanga 1st District Engr. Rico Guilas, and Pampanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry chairman emeritus Levy P. Laus to inspect the water-hyacinth choked Pau River in Sto. Rosario, Sto. Tomas where the downstream fl ow of fl oodwaters from this city remained blocked.

    As promised by Santiago during a dialog at the Capitol last week, a backhoe on-barge belonging to the city is clearing the waterways of thick water hyacinths said to be able to hold a man’s weight.

    The DPWH has also dispatched to the said river a backhoe-cum-dredger called “Water Master.” The spiderlike equipment is equipped with its own fl oaters and two hydraulic legs that allow maneuverability as well as stability in the water.

    Sambo noted however that at least four more similar equipment are needed to fast track the clearing operations and fi nish it in a month’s time.

    This, he added, would be followed by the longer period of dredging operations to “increase the capacity of the rivers to absorb more fl oodwaters” from the city.

    Molano said his of- fi ce would study the possibility of assigning more backhoes and dredgers to the Pau River and other waterways in Sto. Tomas all the way to neighboring Minalin.

    This, even as he noted that there are currently two assigned in Sasmuan and Masantol towns.

    For his part, Laus said PamCham will seek the “institutionalization” of annual clearing operations on the waterways with “the allocation of regular funds” for that purpose.

    “This obstruction of waterways has become a perennial problem, which government addresses reactively. Pre-emptive measures are imperative, thereby the need for annual allocations for river upkeep so that even before the rains begin our rivers are free from obstructions,” Laus said.

    Capitol forum

    At the meeting presided by Gov. Lilia G. Pineda last week, Castro pinpointed the clearing o the Pau River as the “immediate solution” to the fl oodings in the city.

    Citing his “many visits” to the area “even at the height of summer,” he estimated the waterway to be some 400 to 500 meters in length and 60 meters wide, “all covered with thick layers of water hyacinths.”

    He traced the fl ow of rainwater from the high point of Angeles City “about 72 meters above sea level,” downstream to San Fernando “about four meters above sea level,” onto Sto. Tomas, “about two meters above sea level.”

    “Nung baradu ya karin, makananu yang mabit ing danum ken (If it’s blocked at the lowest level, how can water fl ow there)?” Castro noted. “Istung leko me ita, ala kung akakit a dahilan para mawala ing albug (If you remove the blockage, I don’t see any more reason why the fl oods won’t ebb).”


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