MANILA, FEBRUARY 13, 2012—Urban flooding is a serious and growing development challenge for countries in East Asia including the Philippines, underscoring an urgent need to build flood risk management into regular planning of cities and towns, says a new World Bank guidebook released today.
Titled “Cities and Flooding: A Guide to Integrated Urban Flood Risk Management for the 21st Century,” the book provides operational guidance on how to manage the risk of floods in the face of urbanization, growing populations and long-term climate change trends.
“Urban expansion often creates poorer neighborhoods which lack adequate infrastructure and services, making them more vulnerable to floods. The poor are hit hardest, especially women and children,” said Pamela Cox, World Bank Vice President, East Asia and Pacific Region who led the launch of the guidebook through a videoconference from Tokyo. “But rapid urbanization also means we have the opportunity to do things right the first time, so cities and towns can support sustainable development, saving lives and money.”
In the Philippines, floods are a perennial challenge, usually triggered by a combination of factors including typhoons, tropical depressions, prolonged heavy rains, clogged waterways and improper street drainage.
In December 2011, Tropical Storm Sendong triggered flash floods and mudslides that claimed the lives of more than a thousand people in Northern Mindanao and destroyed crops and properties. In 2009, Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng unleashed massive floods in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon, affecting 9.3 million people and causing the deaths of close to a thousand. Total damage and losses reached more than US$4 billion or 2.7 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
As developing countries like the Philippines transition to largely urban societies, the concentration of people and assets has made urban flooding increasingly costly and difficult to manage. In addition to direct economic damage, floods also have long-term consequences such as loss of education opportunities, disease and reduced nutrition which may erode development goals.
According to the guidebook, the most effective way to manage flood risk is to take an integrated approach which combines both structural and non-structural measures. This includes:
- Building drainage channels and floodways;
- Incorporating “urban greening” such as wetlands and environmental buffers;
- Creating flood warning systems; and
- Land use planning for flood avoidance.
The key is getting the balance right, says the guidebook. While hard-engineered structures are effective when used appropriately, they can be overcome by natural disasters beyond their design capacity. They may transfer flood risk, reducing risk in one location only to increase it in another.
Implementing an integrated strategy effectively requires cooperation between different levels of government, public sector agencies, civil society, educational organizations and private sectors, as well as strong decisive leadership from national and local governments.
Many tools are available to help us better understand flood risk and its hazards. Web-based flood forecasting systems are an effective way to disseminate hydrological and hydro-meteorological data to a range of users. Mapping risk and vulnerability can be invaluable in directing resources appropriately to protect people as well as empowering them to take actions towards better disaster preparedness.
As flood risk cannot be eliminated entirely, planning for a speedy recovery is necessary, using reconstruction as an opportunity to build safer and stronger communities which have the capacity to withstand flooding better in the future.
"Recent large-scale disasters such as the tsunami and earthquake in Japan and the floods in Thailand, Philippines, and Australia emphasize the need for a new approach to disaster risk management and resilience,” said lead author of the guidebook Abhas Jha, Lead Urban Specialist and Program Leader, Disaster Risk Management, World Bank East Asia and Pacific Region. “We need to design systems that recognize the complex and uncertain nature of flood risk management and its impacts. Design should be comprehensive, flexible and iterative, being careful to avoid an over-reliance on any one given solution which may not be enough to counter the dynamic nature of risk.”
“In the context of the Philippines, it is vital to link urban flood risk management with poverty reduction and climate change adaptation initiatives, and specific issues of urban planning and management, such as housing provision, land tenure, urban infrastructure delivery, basic service provision, and livelihood,” said World Bank Country Director for the Philippines Motoo Konishi.
Following Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng, the Philippines enacted the Republic Act No. 10121 (Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act) and Strategic National Action Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction containing the country’s framework for disaster risk reduction and management. The government, with World Bank support, is also set to complete the preparation of the Metro Manila Flood Management Master Plan early this year.
“The Philippines has drawn up a comprehensive framework for dealing with natural disasters and has done great strides in addressing the risk of floods. This guidebook is a great contribution to efforts at making sure that people’s vulnerabilities to calamities are reduced significantly,” added Mr. Konishi.
The guidebook was produced with the financial support of the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR). Partners include the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).