Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Philippine cities tackle climate change

IRIN: When asked what resilience means, the head of city planning for the Philippines’ second largest city, Davao, said that for Filipinos it means how high floodwater reaches before they agree to be evacuated. “In our most recent flooding, that level was chest-high,” said Roberto Alabado III, referring to flooding in mid-January that affected thousands of city dwellers, most in slum areas, who refused evacuation until they were chest-deep in floodwater.  “That’s our limit,” Alabado wryly noted.

Davao is one of four cities the government has identified as being at high risk of climate-related hazards. It was near the path of the Category 5 (winds of at least 250km per hour) Typhoon Bopha that hit the southern island of Mindanao in early December, leading to some 2,000 people dead or missing.

“It’s scary,” admitted Alabado. “Can we handle everything? We haven’t solved [all our] problems from the past 20 years - including sanitation - and now we have to think about [climate-related] problems for the next 20 years.”

Most of the city’s disaster initiatives have been on the response side, boosting the city’s reputation as among the strongest nationwide in emergency response (it opened a “911” integrated emergency response service in 2002, patterned after the US hotline), but officials have since realized the city needs also to prevent, adapt to and, if possible, avoid, climate-related disasters, he added.

“Awareness is not enough,” said the World Food Programme’s (WFP) country representative, Stephen Anderson. “Local governments don’t act on information from climate hazard maps,” he told IRIN, explaining why WFP, along with the UN Human Settlements Programme, is helping to “climate-proof” four cities - Iloilo, Cagayan de Oro, Butuan and Davao - under a US-funded climate change adaptation programme that is helping city officials conduct vulnerability assessments and implement pilot projects based on identified climate threats...

Seen in Davao City, shot by Pascalll, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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