Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Taming the fury of floods and our greed

Gerry Geronimo in the Manila Standard (Philippines) summarizes a report that sounds like a template for cities adapting: …According to Nathaniel von Einsiedel, a fellow at the Institute of Environmental Planners, in his article “Flooding in Metro Manila: Can It Ever Be Solved?” published recently by Tao Pilipinas, an NGO magazine and from which I draw heavily for this piece, Manila is no stranger to floods; floods have been part of the city’s daily life since at least the 19th century.

...Undoubtedly, as pointed in the Undro report I had given exposure to in my previous pieces, the combination of topographic, hydrological and meteorological conditions predispose Metro Manila to frequent flooding. But over and above nature risks, Metro Manila is made all the more vulnerable by human activity.

These activities include, not necessarily in the order of the degree of their rapacity, (a) rapid and massive rise in the size and density of the population; (b) improper land management and environmental protection; (c) inadequate solid waste management; (d) overdependence and reliance on infrastructure and technological solutions; and (e) lack of coordination, if not cooperation, among the public agencies responsible for flood control and disaster management. There is no need, at this time, to go into the gory details.

What is heartening to note, though, in the von Einsiedel article is that while the situation is serious, the prognosis is not hopeless. “...if Metro Manila is to develop as a flood-free mega-city [and not just espouse the useful but short-term strategy of disaster preparedness], its 17 component cities,” claims von Einsiedel, “need to look beyond the confines of their respective jurisdictions and accept the fact that they are parts and parcels of a single floodplain, a vast urbanized drainage basin which does not respect political boundaries. If this acceptance is achieved, then the preparation of an ecologically-based regional plan can proceed. Unless this happens, Metro Manila will likely not only remain vulnerable but even become highly susceptible to more frequent and severe disasters in the face of climate change.”…

2007 Flooding in Manila, US Navy photo

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