Silliman University presents recommendations on Ocoy River flooding

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Silliman University, Dumaguete – After a year and a half of research studies, Silliman University presented its research findings and key recommendations to the LGUs of Dumaguete, Sibulan, and Valencia on October 14 at Silliman Assembly Hall.

The project, supported by the Oscar M. Lopez Center for Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management Foundation, Inc., involved researchers from multiple fields with the ultimate goal of making households and businesses along the Ocoy River more resilient to floods.

Ocoy River, which passes through Valencia, Dumaguete, and Sibulan, has a history of catastrophic floods that have wreaked havoc on homes, businesses, and farms, and resulted in deaths, injuries, and loss of property and livelihood. Despite the dangers, people continue to build homes along the riverbanks.

“Climate change will increase the likelihood of destructive typhoons and the frequency of heavy downpours, which for the communities along Ocoy River would mean more exposure to dangerous floods,” explained project leader Dr. Jorge Emmanuel of Silliman University’s Institute of Environmental & Marine Sciences and College of Engineering & Design.

To address this problem, the project pulled together multiple disciplines—sociology/anthropology, chemistry/biology, geophysical science/engineering, and computer studies.

“The project demonstrates the value of an inter-disciplinary approach to tackling urgent problems,” said sociologist-anthropologist Dr. Enrique Oracion, Silliman University’s Director of Research and one of the project team leaders.

Among the tools developed by Dr. Oracion’s team were social survey questionnaires to understand the perceptions and “sense of place” of residents and businesses. The concept of sense of place provides insight into why people remain in a place despite its perceived high risk and can guide policymakers on climate adaptive resettlement.

Another team headed by biologist Dr. Robert Guino-o helped train communities on sampling of Ocoy River water. During the dry season, his group found that the dumping of human and animal waste into the river resulted in high levels of coliform bacteria that could spread during floods. His team facilitated the training of community leaders in First Aid/Basic Life Support and recommended a program of training for at-risk communities to increase the chances of survival of people injured by floods.

Dr. Emmanuel’s team developed models of the Ocoy River Basin using open-source software. The models were used to determine areas of high flood risk. They reviewed the latest engineering design recommendations for flood control structures, and suggested a reach-by-reach assessment of the river to determine the most appropriate hard control measures. They also recommended non-structural measures such as increased forest protection, reforestation, bioengineering approaches (such as the planting of bamboo and vetiver grass along river banks), and the possible use of flood retention basins upstream.

The task of compiling and visualizing the data fell on the team of Dr. Dave Marcial, Dean of Computer Studies. His group developed the web portal and database, and provided training to the LGUs on the use of free software to access visualized data and flood hazard maps.

Importantly, Dr. Marcial announced, “We are introducing a new application called Siren, which was developed by our students. It has an information board, early warning, and incident reporting system.” This new web and mobile app could be part of an enhanced early warning system for the province.

The project worked closely with the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Officers and held numerous consultations with residents, businesses, barangay officials, and other stakeholders to come up with a set of recommendations, which were subsequently discussed with city and municipal officials, Sanggunian members, as well as provincial officials. Recommendations ranged from flood control, disaster mitigation measures, preparedness, hazard maps and the web portal and mobile app as part of an early warning system, and the incident command system, to post-disaster recovery.

Silliman University President Dr. Betty Cernol-McCann formally presented the written recommendations to Mayor Edgar Teves of Valencia, Vice Mayor Marcela Bartoces of Sibulan, and HRMO Dr. Dinno Depositario representing Mayor Felipe Antonio Remollo of Dumaguete.

“The university is committed to supporting the efforts of Dumaguete, Sibulan, and Valencia in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation,” said Dr. McCann. “We hope they will adopt the recommendations and will benefit from the capacity building activities provided by the project team as we work together to make our communities more resilient to climate change.”

The Silliman University project “A Spatio-Temporal Analysis of Settlement Behavior and Resilience of Households and Businesses Along Ocoy River” involved developing and applying inter-disciplinary tools to help build more resilient riverside communities. The project worked with residents, businesses, and LGUs along the Ocoy River. The project was funded by the Oscar M. Lopez Center for Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management Foundation, Inc. in partnership with the City of Dumaguete, Municipality of Sibulan, and Municipality of Valencia.

For more information on this study, visit the OML Resilience Grant page on “A Spatio-Temporal Analysis of Settlement Behavior and Resilience of Households and Businesses Along Ocoy River” or visit the Settlement and Resilience of Ocoy River Communities website.

Photos courtesy of Dr. Jorge Emmanuel. 

Main photo of Ocoy River in the upstream area. 

Group photo: Team leaders of Silliman University’s interdisciplinary research project on Ocoy River communities with LGU representatives of Dumaguete, Sibulan and Valencia (L-R): Dr. Dave Marcial; Dr. Enrique Oraction; Hazel Clerigo, representing OML Center; Dr. Jorge Emmanuel; Marcela Grampon-Bartoces, Sibulan vice mayor; Edgar Teves, Valencia mayor; Dr. Dinno Depositorio, Dumaguete City deputy city administrator representing Mayor Felipe Remollo; Josephine Barraquias, head of the Local Disaster Risk Reduction & Management Office of Sibulan; Dr. Betty Cernol-McCann, SU president; and Dr. Robert Guino-o.