Flooding has been a perineal problem in the Philippines, especially in Metro Manila. The MMDA (Metro Manila Development Authority) estimates that 50% of the city is affected by floods during a typhoon. The Philippines receives and average of 20 typhoons and it is estimated to cost 2.8 billion US dollars yearly.
The flood problem is clearly a man-made. Below are 10 reasons compiled by the Philippine Star on why it floods in the Metro:
1. People are unprepared. It floods because it rains; the rains and the typhoons that bring them have increased in magnitude. Yes, it’s climate change. Typhoons now cross parts of the archipelago that did not use to have them regularly and so people are caught unprepared.
2. Population and urbanization. Metro Manila has a population of 12 million and counting. Urbanization, specifically urban sprawl is a manifestation of all these millions living together and needing houses, buildings, roads, parking lots and infrastructure. All these cover ground that used to be open and able to absorb much of the storm water that fell on the metropolis.
3. Deforestation. Metro Manila floods come from elevated surrounding regions, all the way up to the Sierra Madres. There, we have lost almost all of our original forest cover from illegal logging. All this forest cover lost makes millions of hectares of upland a bald watershed that flows freely into the metropolis. This situation is repeated around almost all major urban areas in the country.
4. Metro Manila is not only low but it is sinking. Ground water extraction due to deep wells is causing major areas of the metropolis to sink. The north section of CAMANAVA and the southern cities from Pasay onwards have sunk from a foot to over a meter and this has made those areas more vulnerable to floods and storm surges.
5. Less and less drainage systems. Reports have it that we have lost almost half of our metropolitan esteros and canals. We used to have over 40 kilometers of them and now we only have about 20. Many have been lost to development, disappearing without a trace (now it regularly floods where they used to be of course).
6. Many of esteros, canals and waterways of our metropolis we have left are chock-full of informal settlers. Because there are no alternatives for low-income mass housing, desperate people settle in desperate areas. These settlements have little by way of solid waste management and sewers. All these go to the waterways, filling many of them so solid that dogs can cross over them.
7. Main flood control system started in the ’70s was never completed. The Manggahan floodway was only one half of the picture. It was meant to channel floodwater into Laguna Bay. The lake was meant only as a holding area and the excess water was to have been flushed from there to Manila Bay via the Parañaque spillway. That spillway was never built.
8. What little left of our drains and flood control infrastructure is ill-maintained. Reaching many of them is a problem because of informal settlements. Overlapping jurisdictions of local and national agencies conspire to dissipate responsibility and funding for this vital task of ensuring our drains are unclogged and free.
9. Urban development is unplanned and unfettered. Mega-developments that see clusters of 30 to 40-storey towers on retail podiums surrounded by hectares of parking cause havoc in districts planned with drainage infrastructure meant for low-density development. Because there is a lack of planning context (actually a lack of any planning at all), all drainage, road and traffic infrastructure is useless to carry the additional load — that’s why most flooded areas are also traffic-clogged.
10. Politics. Metro Manila is made up of 16 cities and one town (Pateros). Floods do not respect political boundaries and will flow from one city to the next yet we continue to address flooding (as well as all other urban problems) within the confines of individual LGUs. It does not make sense. Politics also conspires to keep informal settlers where they are because they represent votes.
Below are some resources on current projects on the way.
- ADB (Asian Development Bank) Flood Disaster Preparedness Project
- World Bank’s Metro Manila Flood Management Project