MANILA: When Mary Ann San Jose moved to Sitio Pariahan more than two decades ago, she could walk to the local chapel. Today, reaching it requires a swim.
The main culprit is catastrophic subsidence caused by groundwater being pumped out from below, often via unregulated wells for homes, factories, and farms catering to a booming population and growing economy.
The steady sinking of coastal towns and islets like Pariahan in the northern Philippines has caused Manila Bay’s brackish water to pour inland and displace thousands, posing a greater threat than rising sea levels due to climate change.
“It was so beautiful here before… Children were playing in the streets,” San Jose said, adding: “Now we always need to use a boat.”
Most of the former residents have scattered to other parts of the region. Just a handful of families remain in Pariahan, which had its own elementary school, a basketball court, and a chapel before the water flowed in.
These days just the flooded chapel, a cluster of shacks on bamboo stilts where San Jose lives with her family, and a few homes on a bump of land remain.
The children that live there commute 20 minutes by boat to a school inland and most of the residents eke out a living by fishing.
The provinces of Pampanga and Bulacan – where Pariahan is located – have sunk between four and six centimeters (1.5-2.4 inches) annually since 2003, according to satellite monitoring.
“It’s really a disaster that is already happening… It’s a slow-onset disaster,” explained Narod Eco, who is part of a group of scientists tracking the problem.
By comparison, the UN estimates average sea level rise globally is about three millimeters per year.
The creeping bay waters put people and property at risk, while the threat is amplified by high-tides and flooding brought by the roughly 20 storms that pound the archipelago every year.
Some areas have raised roads in an effort to keep up with the sinking, creating odd scenes where the street surface is at the height of door knobs on roadside buildings.
At least 5,000 people have been forced out of the mostly rural coastal areas north of Manila in recent decades as the bay water has moved further inland, regional disaster officials told the Media.
The sinking is very likely permanent because the ground in the hardest hit areas is mostly clay, which sticks together after the water is pulled out.
The fate of towns such as Pariahan provides a preview of the problems that may await some of the capital’s 13 million people.
Sections of Manila along the shore of the bay are sinking too, with excess groundwater pumping being the most likely cause, Eco, the researcher, told the Media. The subsidence there though is at a slower rate than the northern coastal communities, potentially due to less pumping or differences in the soil, he added.
A moratorium on new wells in the greater Manila area has been in place since 2004. But enforcing that ban as well as shuttering existing illegal wells, falls to the National Water Resource Board and its roughly 100 staffers who are responsible for policing the whole country.
“We have insufficient manpower resources,” the board’s director Sevillo David told AFP. “It’s a very big challenge for us, but I think we are doing the best we can.”
The demand for water has soared as Manila’s population has nearly doubled since 1985, and the size of the nation’s economy has expanded roughly ten-fold over the same period.
This explosive growth has created a ravenous demand for water, especially in the agriculture and manufacturing industries to the north of the capital.
“The sinking is a very serious threat to people, their livelihoods and cultures,” said Joseph Estadilla, a spokesman for alliance seeking to protect Manila Bay coastal communities.
“This is only going to get worse in the near future,” he insisted.
Manila and its surroundings are among several major cities, especially in Asia, under threat as the land collapses beneath them, though the causes for this vary.
Cities such as Jakarta – which is sinking 25 centimeters (0.8 feet) each year – Bangkok and Shanghai risk being inundated within decades as a mixture of poor planning, more violent storms and higher tides wreak havoc.
In Jakarta, a city of 10 million people that sits on a confluence of 13 rivers, half the population lacks access to piped water, so many dig illegal wells to extract groundwater. Yet in Pariahan the residents who remain are doing what they can to stay in a place they call home.
San Jose explained: “Every year Philippine cities facing ‘slow-motion disaster”
Pak-China agree to expedite work on Sukkur-Hyderabad Motorway
ISLAMABAD: Minister for Planning, Development and Reform Makhdum Khusro Bakhtyar and Ambassador of China Yao Jing during a meeting here on Monday agreed to expedite the work on Eastern Corridor from Sukkur to Hyderabad in BOT (Build, Operate, and Transfer) mode for its early completion.
The two dignitaries expressed satisfaction over the pace of projects under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) framework.
CPEC: Sukkur-Multan motorway benefits people
The Sukkur-Multan section of the Peshawar-Karachi Motorway being constructed under CPEC has vitalized the local economy and benefited the people in the area.
The motorway has a design speed of 120 km per hour, and it is a two-way six-lane road stretched from Sukkur, a city in Sindh province, to Multan, a city in Punjab province, People’s Daily Online reported here on Wednesday.
The project, being completed by the engineers of China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) alongside local Pakistanis, has promoted private sector development and small and micro businesses in the local area and regions along the route.
A Chinese manager said the building materials such as gravel and cement were bought from local companies, accelerating the industrial chain cycle.
The construction corporation also worked with local companies to exploit natural resources, facilitating related industries such as transportation and sales.
The project officially started in the year 2016 has created job opportunities for graduates and specialized workers including 26-year-old Salman who came from a small town 130 kilometers away from Multan. After graduation, he applied for a job in the project.
With excellent English and professional skills, he was hired to lead about 1,000 Pakistani workers. A lot of Pakistani workers like Salman realized their potential in the construction project.
The motorway has created 23,000 positions, including administrative staff and senior technical workers. It has also helped create more than 40,000 jobs through the development of related industries.
The project has trained 4,500 machine operators and 2,300 administrators and technicians for Pakistan so far.
The CSCEC has sent a medical team to provide free services for 3,900 local people and has also built nine schools in Pakistan.
The project is expected to be completed by June 2019. By then, the distance from Sukkur to Multan will be shortened from 463 kilometers to 392 kilometers, and the travel time halved from 8 hours to 4 hours.
The Multan-Sukkur motorway is part of Peshawar-Karachi Motorway. This route starts from Karachi via Hyderabad, Sukkur, Multan, Islamabad, Lahore, and other cities, and ends in Peshawar with a total length of 1,152 kilometers.
Lt Gen Faiz Hameed is new DG ISI
RAWALPINDI: The Pakistan Army has appointed Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed as new Director-General of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), ISPR said.
Gen. Hameed will be replacing Lt-Gen Asim Munir, who has now been posted as the Corps Commander Gujranwala, according to the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), media wing of the army.
Gen. Hameed is from the Baloch Regiment. He was in-charge of the internal security wing at the ISI. He has commanded a division in Pano Aqil.
Lieutenant General Sahir Shamshad Mirza has been appointed as Adjutant General of Pakistan Army at the General Headquarters (GHQ) while Lieutenant General Aamir Abbasi has been named as Quarter Master at GHQ.
Lieutenant General Moazzam Abbas has been named Engineer-In-Chief at GHQ, said ISPR.
Earlier in April, the Pakistan Army had announced a number of high-level appointments and transfers in its ranks.
Kartarpur Corridor to be completed on time: Khusro
ISLAMABAD: Minister for Planning, Development and Reform Makhdum Khusro Bakhtyar Friday said the government would timely complete the Kartapur Corridor to provide easy access to Sikh devotees besides promoting religious tourism.
He was chairing a meeting on development of Gurdwara Kartarpur Corridor here. Secretary Planning Zafar Hasan, Secretary Religious Affairs, Director General FWO Maj Gen Inam Haider Malik, Members Planning Commission, Commissioner Gujranwala, representatives from NESPAK and high level officials of the ministry were present during the occasion.
The minister said the prime minister had performed ground breaking of the Corridor on November 28, 2018 and will inaugurate the Corridor in the same month this year.
He said the incumbent government took a major initiative last year by announcing opening of Kartarpur Corridor to provide access to Sikh devotees to Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib on the request of Navjot Singh Sidhu.
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