Ondoy’s Insights, Part I

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

From TIME: “Last weekend's flood was in large part the result of the capital's poor drainage and sanitation systems, which have been neglected by several successive administrations in power. As Ketsana rained down upon Manila, sewers that were clogged up by plastic bags and other refuse led to roads becoming rivers and gardens lagoons. Video images of desperate people riding floating pontoons of garbage down inundated streets were a sign not just of the consequences of the flood, but also its causes….”

When will the Filipino people ever learn?

As Cat and I packed relief goods for the victims of Typhoon Ondoy (aka Ketsana), I had to comment on the irony of the situation.  The priority is to get those goods to the people who desperately need them as quickly as possible, and in a useful condition.  Plastic bags are a cheap and practical solution to this, as they’re light, cheap, and for packing food and bottles of drinking water, watertight. 

That last consideration has now gained in importance because the floodwaters in many districts have tested positive for E. coli bacteria. As I told Cat, I don’t think we have a choice right now but use plastic. The other side of the coin is that the relief goods may be coming packaged in the very things that will contribute to the next mega-flood. Moreover, a lot of the items come in – you guessed it, non-biodegradable plastic or foil wrappers.

I hope the affected people realize this and take care to dispose of the waste packaging properly.  I want to help. As one whose house was almost flooded, escaping by only 2 inches and perhaps an hour of rain, I have this distinct feeling of ‘there but for the grace of God go I’ for the victims.  But the thought that I may be handing the weapon that will drive me out of my home to unwitting perpetrators sends a chill down my spine.