MANILA, Philippines — The World Bank and the Philippine government are working on a master plan that would make Metro Manila flood-proof or at least make it safer for its residents in the event of prolonged rains and floods.
The World Bank said urban flooding has hampered the growth of the Philippine capital, home to about 14 million Filipinos and the center of economic activity of the country.
Joop Stoutjesdijk, who leads the preparation for the master plan, said the Philippine government has recognized the need to make Metro Manila resilient in the event of floods after tropical storm Ondoy drowned the city in 2009. “Ondoy was sort of an eye-opener. It changed the attitude of the government,” he said in a media interview on Monday.
In 2009, storms Ondoy and Pepeng unleashed massive floods in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon, affecting 9.3 million people and causing the deaths of close to a thousand. Total damage and losses reached more than US$4 billion or 2.7 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
Stoutjesdijk said the plan to protect Metro Manila from rampaging flood waters would include reforestation projects in the watershed areas outside the city, cleaning up the catchment basins such as the Manila Bay and the Laguna Lake, and improving urban drainage and waterways. It also addresses issues such as resettling communities near the Laguna Lake and building structural solutions to protect them against rising waters.
World Bank Country Director for the Philippines Motoo Konishi said: “In the context of the Philippines, it is vital to link urban flood risk management with poverty reduction and climate change adaptation initiatives, and specific issues of urban planning and management, such as housing provision, land tenure, urban infrastructure delivery, basic service provision, and livelihood.”
The master plan also puts forward institutional suggestions to various agencies to make them more responsive to disasters. At present, the responsibility of making Metro Manila safe from floods is “fragmented,” according to Stoutjesdijk.
The master plan has been under review and might be ready in a month or two, the WB official said.
The World Bank released, on Monday, a guidebook titled Cities and Flooding: A Guide to Integrated Urban Flood Risk Management for the 21st Century to help Asian Cities cope with floods.
According to the WB, urban flooding is a serious and growing development challenge for countries in East Asia including the Philippines.
Global disaster hotspot
The WB said the Philippines has become one of the global disaster hotspots, with at least 85% of its GDP in areas at risk.
“Recent large-scale disasters such as the tsunami and earthquake in Japan and the floods in Thailand, Philippines, and Australia emphasize the need for a new approach to disaster risk management and resilience,” said lead author of the guidebook Abhas Jha, Lead Urban Specialist and Program Leader, Disaster Risk Management, World Bank East Asia and Pacific Region.
“We need to design systems that recognize the complex and uncertain nature of flood risk management and its impacts. Design should be comprehensive, flexible and iterative, being careful to avoid an over-reliance on any one given solution, which may not be enough to counter the dynamic nature of risk,” he said.
Floods from monsoon rains and tropical cyclones are a perennial challenge to the Philippines, which is visited by 20 typhoons every year. This is aggravated by poor urban planning, clogged waterways and street drainages.
For the past few years, flash floods have destroyed towns and led to massive losses in agriculture. The latest flash flood occurred in December 2011, when Tropical Storm Sendong hit the port cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan in northern Mindanao, killing about a thousand people.
Last year, typhoons Pedring and Quiel drowned Central Luzon, the Philippines’ grains center, and destroyed 1.1 million metric tons of unmilled rice.