MANILA, Philippines-Manila, the Philippines capital and one of Asia’s most populous cities, is sinking and may go the way of Venice unless its people stopped pumping ground water for bathing and other needs, experts warned Thursday.
The phenomenon of subsidence, caused by the drying up of aquifers as a result of over-extraction of water, threatens not only Manila but also nearby areas that have also seen rapid migration and development, said Fernando Siringan.
The geologist from the Marine Science Institute at the University of the Philippines did not give the rate of sinking, saying only that the metropolis of 12 million people faced potential water and marine product shortages, flash floods, and even infrastructure damage.
“Originally, the Italians never planned to make Venice a city permanently submerged in seawater. It was built above water, on the valley of Italy,” Siringan said in an article posted on the environment and natural resources department website.
“But because the Venetians were so much dependent on groundwater, the subsidence was tremendous; the place later became submerged in water. But the Venetians adapted very well, and so they did not destroy the structures of Venice,” Siringan said.
Ramon Alikpala, head of the government’s National Water Resources Board, said the subsidence problem was complicated by the fact that large areas of the city are actually situated below sea level.
“There is already saltwater intrusion in some parts of Metro Manila because of over-extraction and the lack of recharging of the aquifer,” he said.
Siringan urged the government to enforce the 1979 water code that barred the drilling of water wells for commercial uses.
The government should allow only a few wells operated by water utilities or the local governments, and develop reservoirs to minimize ecological damage, he said.
Manila should also harvest and store rainwater, he added.
The department said many residential districts in southern Manila, as well as the provinces of Bulacan and Pampanga north of the capital, suffer from saltwater intrusion in the groundwater.
The water board said there were similar problems in many other Philippine cities.
“Many of our countrymen take water for granted. They are not aware that many areas in the country are experiencing water shortages because water supply sources are degraded,” Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Joselito Atienza said.
First Posted 19:37:00 12/04/2008