August 9, 2017

POOR URBAN PLANNING, A MONSTER THAT RUINS FILIPINO LIVES


Do you know that there is around 500 million dollars average annual loss in the Philippines because of floods? (more info about this through this link). Philippines, being a tropical country, is famous world wide not only because of Manny Paquiao but also because of floods. During the first few years of my travel journey, around 2013, the famous Typhoon Haiyan or "Super Typhoon Yolanda" tragedy happened. And all of the people in the world heard the news about it. Every time I meet foreigners and I say that I'm a Filipino, they'll say they know Pacquiao and at the same time, they feel bad for the Philippines because of how typhoon Yolanda killed many people and destroyed voluminous amount of infrastructures. Boo! It almost destroyed my whole shoe collection! I could still remember that day when I was trying to save all of my hard-earned few shoe collection to fall in the flood. By that time, I was already living alone in my life-independently. Super Typhoon Yolanda is not the only typhoon which gave a big impact in the country, there are several and one of these typhoons that I also couldn't forget was the typhoon Ondoy. Just a brief introduction and commercial, for those who still don't have any idea about my life background, my hometown is Malabon. And yeah, It's not unusual for me to hear everytime they ask me from what town am I and I answer I'm from Malabon, they'll always answer "Oh, diba laging baha duon?" It's a flood area right?. No wonder that I already have a lot of experiences when it comes to floods. So, it was an early morning around September 2009, the sun has just risen and it's a good day for me since I don't have classes (I was in my first year college that time at UST)when my sister told me that I should wake up because there's already flood outside our house. I won't believe her because it's been a long time since the last time we experienced flood in our neighborhood- I could still reminisce the moments when I was around maybe 6 or 7 years old, when we evacuate our place because of flood- it happens every time it rains heavy! Eventually, after some years, it stopped flooding-I still don't know the reason why- until Typhoon Ondoy happened(2009). Going back to the story,  since my sister was forcing me to wake up in the middle of my peaceful sleep - I needed to look outside the window only to see that she's telling the truth. The flood's height was around up to the ankle of an adult. It was alarming because yeah, it's been years since it happened-but not too much alarming that we didn't see what's coming. Just a few hours later, flood gets higher and higher- so high that no one could reach the ground level. Believe it or not, it may sounds funny, but there was a floating coffin, and even an almost drowning pig which people are trying to save. Like, damn, would you even dare to swim or make your feet touch the flood, seeing those scenes? Could you imagine what kind of diseases and bacterias could you get?   Oh well, that may be the highlight of the flood, but what really matters are the  people who are already starting to evacuate, there are already rescue boats, and we were lucky because we were living in a 3 storey house in which the ground floor is a garage (but we don't have car so nothing to worry if it will be flooded and gets broken hehe). There are only few 3 storey houses in our community, flood was already up to the 2nd floor of the houses, so we volunteered to help those who needs place for evacuation. We welcomed a total of 7 families in our house, mind you, our house is not big and it's not yet even finished by that time because of the lack of funds- but even if the families looks like a sardines(they were all in our 3rd floor's living area), I still felt good thinking that we saved 7 families by that time. The most tragic part is, there was no electricity. And they didn't have foods with them so we gave them some of our canned goods. Haha, I remember I'm still with my 5-year ex-boyfriend that time, and he was so worried about us and he managed to bring me a "Tokyo-Tokyo" meal, my favorite,  only to found out that our neighbourhood was not accessible anymore. There was no signal that time and the neighbors only told us that my boyfriend was at Caltex(gasoline station), 8 streets before our street, the part where the flood starts to fade, and he needed to give me something. So, my brother rode one of the rescue boats, and I was so lonely seeing him back in our house without my boyfriend. Ooops, I meanr ex boyfriend. But it was okay, it was still so thoughtful of him to bring me foods and my family was thankful too because we all shared and finished it. The evacuees was in our house until the next day, because the flood wasn't subsiding yet even up to the 2nd day. It was a a memorable moment for us indeed. And there are a lot of disastrous typhoons and floods in the Philippine History(Read "10 Worst Typhoon that Went Down Philippines"). But the big question now is, what actually causes flood? And why we couldn't prevent it? Why are we experiencing it until today? Hey, do you know that not all of the countries in the world experience typhoons? Some countries rarely even experience rain. Are we lucky about it or not? Let's find out!



"There is an increasing recognition that the growth of cities is inevitable and the solution to urban problems depends heavily on effective urban planning, infrastructure development and management. Rapid and often unplanned population growth is often associated with population demands that outstrip infrastructure and service capacity and leading to environmental degradation." - Kenyata University

From 13 million during the 30's, Philippine population have grown to 100 Million; (that doesn't even include those who were NSO registered or was surveyed by the census) See detailed population growth here. And population is one of a major aspect that we couldn't set aside in urban planning (believe me, I never had an Urban Planning class but through common sense, I know that this is a justifiable, given the fact that the population growth is one of the major global issues the we face) and poor urban planning and development is one of the reasons why there's these floods which victimises a percentage of that 100 Million Filipino People- that includes you, me, and almost everyone- everyone has their own stories to tell when we talk about flood.

A common person, or those who doesn't have background with environmental and architectural aspects, or even a young child, could answer that the cause of flood is the lack of trees-illegal logging. Yes! That's true, but we couldn't just conclude it that way; It's not as easy as planting a tree per housing then tadaaa! No more flood in the Philippines! Nope. Nope. It's not like that. Poor urban planning has a big role on why we experience flood in the Philippines.

"The Ondoy disaster in 2009 showed how incapable Metro Manila’s infrastructure is from mitigating the impact of flooding." - Palafox (Read more here)

For those who are not studying Architecture or simply not into Architecture, according to our best friend Wikipedia, "Urban planning is a technical and political process concerned with the development and use of landplanning permission, protection and use of the environment, public welfare, and the design of the urban environment, including air, water, and the infrastructure passing into and out of urban areas, such as transportationcommunications, and distribution networks." Now, imagine those 100 Million people living together and needing houses, buildings, roads, parking lots and infrastructure.

Coming from a student like me, who doesn't have a background, yet, about Urban Planning, I believe that one major reason on why we have poor urban development is because of the corrupt politicians and greedy people. Urban planning should have standards but because of the greediness of the people who handles government projects, or even private subdivision or any urban project- doesn't meet these standards because they think about money more than the necessity and more than the environment. Let's use the young child's answer-that the cause of flood is cutting trees- but instead of talking about illegal logging- let's connect cutting of trees to urban planning - in the most simplest way that any normal person could understand. These greedy people, instead of keeping the existing trees in a land field, they will cut it so there would be more housings and spaces that could give profit(through rental or selling) to them. Looking back to our history, before, we have more rice fields than structures. Now, we are bombard with establishments, big malls, subdivisions, condominiums. And there are no more trees! As per researching about the Philippine Flood History, I discovered that there are more flood tragedies today than way back time. In fact, some article says that "Flooding has been a feature of daily life in Manila since at least the nineteenth century, but the first recorded instance of serious flooding dates to 1942."  (Read more here). Second, canals/kanal or esteros, and drainage systems are just small portions or are lacking in the urban development because these greedy contractors steals money from the budget thus standards are not being met. Or, they value profitable spaces rather than the culture, heritage, and environment. Say for example a 60-storey condominium with hundreds of units, only have a size of a drainage for a low density structures. These drainage cannot cover all and thus it causes flood, and worst, it also causes traffic! Imagine those hundreds of unit owners- also own at least one car! Third, they doesn't include garbage filtration system in the urban development- because they are greedy and they want every single space to become profitable- and garbages are another major source of flood. Yes, I believe that those who are responsible for the budget in urban development should consider that every specific area coverage in the metropolis, should have a garbage filtration system. Other than a garbage filtration system, there should also be a flood control infrastructure. And lastly, rural migration- many people in provinces are migrating in Metro Manila to find their fortune and it causes Manila to become over-populated. And worst, informal settlers are growing and growing and these MONSTERS, oops, I meant, these greedy people particularly politicians, doesn't do anything with these informal settlers because they consider that each of them(informal settlers) still serves as votes for them. And those informal settlers particulary "squatters area" as what we call in the Philippines, are a perfect example of  poor (or maybe poorest) urban development that exists and it obviously causes flood, population, traffic, and worst,  crimes. So, what else? I think thats it- this is my take with regards to this topic, but for those of you who wants to learn more causes and solutions about flood and urban planning- coming from a very great Architect-Palafox, I highly recommend you read this article here.


There are  other more reasons on why it causes floods other than poor urban development. But the bottom line is, it kills many people. It destroys many livelihoods and infrastructures. And other than that, what bothers me as a Filipino citizen is how it is really disturbing that there are a lot of blocked areas or un-passable roads because of flood. It affects my daily life most especially my student life because knowing Mapua- it doesn't suspend classes even if almost all of the universities are already suspending theirs. And coming from Malabon, I could definitely miss my classes. Well, that's just a small case or not a biggie compared to those lives were taken because of these tragic floods, but to tell you honestly, I think that this problem is unsolvable anymore. Well, not in Metro Manila. Metro Manila is already congested, overcrowded and over populated. Yes we could build many roads and high ways to lessen traffics, but what about floods? Metro Manila's altitude is not high compared to provinces. And I believe that to solve this problem, why not we make another version of Metro Manila, outside Metro Manila? So that the population would be balanced. There should be a "BGC" or "Makati" in other parts of the Philippines - but yeah, I know it's not easy. But I'm a positive person and a nationalist, despite of being hard to believe that we could eliminate floods, I still do believe that one day, Philippines will rise just like Hong Kong and Singapore because Philippines is a very rich country if only we could manage our natural resources very well(and that's another topic!). I don't know how or when, but it will happen. Soon! Trust me! 

Resources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_planning
http://www.zipmatch.com/blog/urban-planning-in-metro-manila/
http://reliefweb.int/disaster/fl-2017-000010-phl
http://etd-library.ku.ac.ke/handle/123456789/12252
http://www.populstat.info/Asia/philippc.htm
http://www.m2comms.com/blog/2016/8/3/10-worst-typhoons-that-went-down-in-philippine-history
http://iias.asia/sites/default/files/IIAS_NL31_11.pdf
http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2013/09/23/philippines-long-term-vision-to-reduce-flooding-in-metro-manila
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