What have we done since Ondoy?
When Ondoy struck and engulfed large portions of Metro Manila in September 2009, I had to resurrect points I raised in a story I wrote for Newsbreak Magazine back in 2002.
I didn't realize I would be repeating the points I raised in those stories again, so soon.
(At the bottom is a copy of the 2002 article. Click here to read Flooding in the Metro: who is to blame?)
The first story was prompted by floods that visited Metro Manila in August 2002 -- a decade ago. When I started researching for that first story, I thought the research would reveal a pattern of corruption in the flood control projects.
I was wrong. While the management and prioritization of flood control funds are also an issue, the reasons behind Metro Manila's flooding problem is actually more complex:
1. Almost a 5th of Metro Manila's 63,000 hectare land area is naturally flood-prone.
This is true of portions of Kalookan, Malabon, Navotas, and Valenzuela that are below sea level, or whose elevation is lower than that of the water level of Manila Bay particularly during high tide. And you wonder why many parts of those cities are often submerged in floodwaters?
It is also true of the area in Marikina where Provident Village, one of the hardest-hit villages during Ondoy, now sits.
Geologists will tell you that you should expect flooding in the area because it sits on a river delta. If you look at Provident Village on the map, you will see that Marikina River snakes around it.
During rain, when the river carries so much water, the tendency for the currents is to look for the shortest route, which means slicing its way through the village.
2. The annual rainfall volume of Metro Manila is one of the heaviest among metropolitan areas around the world. All that water must go somewhere.
3. Urban sprawl has covered practically every part of the city in impermeable asphalt and cement, making it difficult for rainwater to seep through soil.
On top of that, we have also irresponsibly disrespected--and covered-- the esteros (tributaries), the natural drainage systems through which water was supposed to flow initially to main waterways, such as the Pasig River, before flowing into the Manila Bay.
Have you ever wondered why the campus of the University of Santo Tomas often gets flooded? That's because the Dominican fathers built the university on top of what used to be the Estero de Alix in Sampaloc, Manila.
4. Tons of garbage.
I have lost track of the current numbers. At the time I did my research, my understanding was that we, city dwellers, were dumping something within the region of 3,000 cubic meters (equivalent to 600 fully laden trucks) of garbage and other solid materials in the city's rivers, canals thereby clogging these drainage systems within weeks after they are cleaned.
This tends to mess up the implementation of flood control projects and sabotage well-meaning programs that have reduced the risk imposed by natural hazards such as floods.
It's been almost 3 years since Ondoy. The devastation that this year's August rainfall brought about makes you wonder what has been done since.
We certainly poured money into the problem.
Since Ondoy, the annual national budget for flood control has more than tripled. In the 2012 General Appropriations Act, funding for locally-funded flood control projects amounted to P8.5 billion, up from 2.7 billion in 2009.
|2009||P2.7 billion||P3.39 billion|
|2010||4.6 billion||2.8 billion|
|2011||8.19 billion||3.13 billion|
|2012||8.51 billion||2.30 billion|
Flood control projects and pumping stations can only do so much, however.
Have we looked into our own habits and tried to find a way to minimize trash?
Have we addressed the roots of flooding? Have we called to account developers who violate environmental laws when they alter natural waterways?
Have we gone after the government officials who allowed these developers to build where they shouldn't?
Congress legislated a law transforming what used to be the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) to the National Disaster and Risk Reduction Council (NDRRMC). Beyond turning the agency acronym into a tongue-twister for reporters and broadcasters, has the agency transformed its approach--from mainly reacting to calamities as they happen to long-term risk reduction?
If not, then don't be surprised if something like this happens again. - Rappler.com