AUGUST 19, 2002
The situation recurs yearly. Not only arethe floods inconvenient, they’re costingmillions, no billions, in property damageand lost economic opportunities. Sadder still, they have resulted in heavy loss of life. The government has spent billions of pe-sos to protect Metro Manila from destruc-tive floods. But many streets still go under water every rainy season. Among the rea-sons: corruption, poor coordination, lackof discipline among residents, and—pub-lic works officials complain—too muchpolitics.Recently, jurisdiction over flood control was transferred from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) tothe Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), owing to the reputation of itsnewly appointed chairman BayaniFernando for getting things done. Whether he’d be able to rid the metropolis of per-sistent floods is a big question, though.
Almost one-fifth (13,300) of the 63,000-hectare land area occupied by Metro Ma-nila is flood prone, according to DPWH en-gineers. This, in part, is because the water level at Manila Bay, particularly duringhigh tide, is higher than the elevation of some inland localities, the engineers say. This is particularly true of Kalookan,Malabon, Navotas, and Valenzuela, better known collectively as the Kamanava area,parts of which experience flooding all year round, regardless of whether there’s rainor not. Theirs is a condition of “near per-manent” flooding. That apart, the annual rainfall in MetroManila is one of the heaviest among met-ropolitan areas in the world. This rangesfrom about 2,000 millimeters in the Manila Bay area to 3,000 millimeters over themountains of Marikina. All that water must go somewhere. Themajor waterways, Pasig River and theMeycauayan River (near Valenzuela),along with their tributaries, empty intoManila Bay and serve as the city’s naturaldraining mechanism. High tide naturally prevents the flow of floodwaters throughthese natural drainage systems, causing water to spill over and swamp many low-lying areas.Major flood control activities are under way to minimize problems arising fromthese natural causes. Nature is not the only culprit, though. Logging and quarrying inmountains along the outskirts of MetroManila have made them highly vulnerableto erosion, causing higher-than-normalamounts of silt to settle in Manila’s water-
Will the engineer-mayor who cleaned up Marikina’s sidewalks be able tosolve Metro Manila’s persistent flood problem?
have the first droplets of rain fallen, and puddles begin to formin many of Metro Manila’s streets. What used to be roadssuddenly become muddy rivers.
WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE:Politicians and engineersneed to get their act together