Bad habits, overdevelopment caused Metro floods, say analystsBy Tessa R. Salazar
Philippine Daily Inquirer
This time, real estate analysts agree with the views of a nature conservationist. Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan, chief executive officer of the environmental group Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF)-Philippines, was quoted by the Inquirer last August 13 as saying, “Filipinos, not the monsoon rains, are to blame for the deluge that paralyzed the metropolitan area of 14-million residents last week.” The Inquirer article also cited Tan as saying that “the latest disaster to hit the Philippines was a result of an unfettered and mindless march to urbanization that had replaced soils and trees, which could absorb the rains and reduce flooding, with concrete jungles.”
Veteran real estate broker Enrico S. Cruz, a civil engineer who resides in Marikina, said he “fully agrees” with Tan’s observations, but said this would be just “one of several factors causing these disasters.”
“For example, more building and developments result in less trees and open spaces, which result in more rainwater in the surface that needs to flow to the existing outdated drainage system that gets clogged because of improper waste disposal, or sometimes intentionally clogged by the enterprising neighborhood making a few pesos pushing cars out of their intentionally flooded streets.”
Enrique M. Soriano III, Ateneo program director for real estate and senior adviser for Wong+Bernstein Business Advisory, said, “The subject of overdevelopment is now classified as a ‘clear and present danger’ and must no longer be ignored.”
Soriano said: “We can no longer hide an elephant in the room! Overdevelopment overwhelms the natural resources of a given area. In Metro Manila and the expanded NCR, with a population base of close to 17 million, overdevelopment is the fastest-growing threat to our local environment that will inevitably impact our quality of life.”
He added: “As property stakeholders, are we providing a reasonable and concerted support to make every development, every zone compliant to environmental standards? The consequences of decades of unplanned, rapid growth and poor land-use management are evident: increased traffic congestion, crowded schools, worsening air and water pollution, disappearing open space, increased flooding, wildlife habitat destroyed (whatever of that has been left in the Metro), higher taxes and deteriorating city centers.”
Julius Guevara, Colliers International’s associate director for valuation and advisory services and head of consultancy and research, said: “While some real estate developers have again been put in a bad light, I think that some sectors have unfairly put the blame on this sector. Bad urban planning and management is the culprit, and real estate developers wouldn’t build on a site if they didn’t get the permits. How they got those permits is another story altogether, though.”
Guevara explained that “the effects of climate change, whether caused by man or nature, are apparent in the spate of flooding that we are experiencing. Real estate development should be more responsible.” Guevara suggested that one way to do this is to inject green building strategies into the development. He explained that stormwater management strategies can be employed, such as building retention and detention ponds to control rainwater onsite before it goes to the public stormwater systems. These ponds and bioswales can be installed in horizontal developments to act as amenities as well as effective stormwater control.
“One may notice that it floods in the metro right away even when it doesn’t seem to rain that much. This is because there is too much impervious material on our ground, such as concrete and asphalt. Minimizing these impervious surfaces is essential; porous paving blocks can be substituted so that water can be absorbed by the soil underneath,” Guevara said.
Obsolete dev’t patterns
Soriano suggested that the government and stakeholders must now rethink and rewrite development patterns that are obsolete, with some dating back to the end of World War II. The Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) must now compel developers to disperse developmental programs outside Metro Manila and encourage “smart growth initiatives” in city centers compromised by overdevelopment. Government must now seriously “walk the talk” on issues related to urban development, less vehicle-dependent master plans and draconian programs in the enforcement of zoning and homebuilding laws.
Cruz added that even with a good drainage system, the water needs to flow to the creeks or natural waterways which is silted because of indiscriminate waste dumping and narrower (drainage system) because of illegal settlement and illegal encroachment or reclamation.
“But please look at the mountains. Less trees because of logging, legal or illegal, subdivision developments, and mining. Because of less trees in the mountains, more water comes down to the rivers. Coming down with the water are mountain soils and waste that will contribute to the siltation and clogging of the riverways,” Cruz said.
He urged readers to see the extent of “these causes” by opening Google Maps.
“In the Manggahan Floodway, for example, a closer look will show settlements in the apron of the man-made canal. A closer look will show further that there are kangkong plantations that may seem innocent, but during critical flooding situation, their being in the waterway adds to the problem by impeding waterflow.”
In civil engineering terms, an apron is “any device for protecting a surface of earth from the action of moving water, a platform to receive the water falling over a dam.”
(Analysts offer more solutions next week.)
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