Philippine floods a man-made disaster: experts

2012-08-09 08:34
Rescuers evacuate a resident along a flooded area in Quezon City, north of Manila, Philippines. (Aaron Favila, AP)

Rescuers evacuate a resident along a flooded area in Quezon City, north of Manila, Philippines. (Aaron Favila, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Manila - Deadly floods that have swamped nearly all of the Philippine capital are less a natural disaster and more the result of poor planning, lax enforcement and political self-interest, experts say.

Damaged watersheds, massive squatter colonies living in danger zones and the neglect of drainage systems are some of the factors that have made the chaotic city of 15 million people much more vulnerable to enormous floods.

Urban planner Nathaniel Einseidel said the Philippines had enough technical know-how and could find the necessary financing to solve the problem, but there was no vision or political will.

"It's a lack of appreciation for the benefits of long-term plans. It's a vicious cycle when the planning, the policies and enforcement are not very well synchronised," said Einseidel, who was Manila's planning chief from 1979-89.

"I haven't heard of a local government, a town or city that has a comprehensive drainage master plan."

Eighty percent of the Manila was this week covered in waters that in some parts were nearly two metres (six and a half feet) deep, after more than a normal August's worth of rain was dumped on the city in 48 hours.

Twenty people have died and two million others have been affected, according to the government, which has said the floods will last for days and longer if more monsoon rains fall.

The deluge was similar to one in 2009, a disaster which claimed more than 460 lives and prompted solemn pledges from government leaders to make the city more resistant to floods.

A government report released then called for 2.7 million people in shantytowns to be moved from "danger zones" alongside riverbanks, lakes and sewers.

The plan would affect one in five Manila residents and take 10 years and 130 billion pesos (2.77 billion dollars) to implement.

But Einseidel said that while there had been some efforts to relocate squatters, they never succeeded.

"With the increasing number of people occupying danger zones, it is inevitable there are a lot people who are endangered when these things happen," he said.

Squatters, attracted by economic opportunities in the city, often build shanties on river banks, storm drains and canals, dumping garbage and impeding the flow of waterways.

"The same people who were already told not to return to the rivers and creeks and floodways are back. They are there again and they are the ones who don't want to leave now."

He blamed the phenomenon on poor enforcement of regulations banning building along creeks and floodways, with local politicians often wanting to keep squatters in their communities to secure their votes at election time.

Meanwhile, on the outskirts of Manila, vital forested areas have been destroyed to make way for housing developments catering to a growing middle and upper class, according to architect Paulo Alcazaren.

Alcazeren, who is also an urban planner, said the patchwork political structure of Manila had made things even harder.

The capital is actually made up of 16 cities and towns, each with its own government, and they often carry out infrastructure programmes -- such as drainage and watershed protection -- without coordination.

"The controls of physical development must not be dependent on political boundaries of towns and provinces," he said.

"Individual cities can never solve the problem. They can only mitigate. If you want to govern properly, you must re-draw or overlay existing political boundaries."

Solutions to the flooding will all require massive efforts such as re-planting the watersheds, building low-cost housing for the squatters and clearing drainage systems, the experts said.

"It will cost billions of pesos but we lose billions anyway every time it floods," Alcazeren said.

Read more on:    philippine  |  floods

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
6 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.