Monday, October 5, 2009

Don’t blame God, blame botched urban planning

Rowena C. Burgos in the Philippine Daily Inquirer lays out a slew or reasons behind the terrible recent flooding in the Philippines. The article is long, but packed with detail and the issues it raises are going to come up in many other locations: Though the Philippines is no stranger to floods, tropical storm “Ondoy” last week broke records, with a month’s worth of rain falling in just six hours.

The storm affected nearly two million people. The death toll has climbed to 280 by Thursday and the number of people crammed in over 700 temporary shelters has ballooned to more than 680,000, according to the National Disaster Coordinating Council.

Sunday Lifestyle interviewed urban planners, architects, and other experts on the factors that could have caused the calamity and the measures to solve them.…Our country’s urban planning model is obsolete. We have obsolete laws, standards, subdivision rules, building codes. Those may have been the causes of the calamity, plus, the problems of garbage and illegal logging. And we have the tendency to blame God. This is not an act of God but an act of omission of man.

If I had my way, I would develop Metro Manila according to plans of American architect Daniel Burnham in 1905. Manila should have been designed in the same way as Paris, built near the Seine River, and Venice, with its waterways. In Venice, you live upstairs and work downstairs. Catch basins should also be constructed under buildings so that they can collect rainwater for recycling or flowing into rivers. It’s better for houses to be built on stilts to go above the flood lines, just like the Badjaos.

….We must protect the few remaining natural areas we have left. We must set up contingency plans for food and water security, for example, full-cycle mariculture. Here, new technologies and better management will make all the difference. We should re-assess and, where possible, re-configure our national aviation, shipping and highway infrastructure to build in a higher level of survivability to climate impacts.

We should adjust other crucial lifelines such as our power generation systems and grid, delivery system for health services, telecommunications network, banking and insurance sectors, capacity for disaster prevention and response, as well as all other sectors that are crucial to keeping this economy alive. We must learn how to work together.—Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan, CEO and vice-chairman, board of trustees, World Wildlife Fund-Philippines…

The aftermath of Ondoy, shot by Philippinepresidency, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License

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