'Urban heat' blamed for floods

By Jon Carlos Rodriguez, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Aug 17 2012 11:28 PM | Updated as of Aug 18 2012 07:28 AM

MANILA, Philippines – An environmental group has blamed urbanization for the recent floods that ravaged cities in Metro Manila.

Lorenzo Tan, CEO of the Worldwide Fund (WWF) for Nature, said because of the continuous development of concrete roads and buildings, Metro Manila has become an urban jungle that can no longer absorb rainfall.

Add to that the trapped heat in the concrete, and Metro Manila becomes more susceptible to heavy rains and extreme weather conditions, a phenomenon Tan refers to as “urban heat island.”

“‘Yung singaw, the heat that comes from beneath the concrete, that’s what makes it hot. And heat attracts rain,” Tan told ANC’s “Prime Time” on Friday.

According to state weather bureau PAGASA, the amount of accumulated downpour in Metro Manila from August 6 to 8 (1,007 millimeters) surpassed the projected rainfall amount for the whole month (540 millimeters).

It also set a new record for daily accumulated rainfall, surpassing the volume of rain dumped in Metro Manila by tropical storm “Ondoy” in September 2009.

Decentralizing Metro Manila

The “sheer concentration of people in Metro Manila” has become a disadvantage, Tan said, suggesting that decentralizing the metropolis may help in preventing disasters in the future.

“I think one solution is to make more livable cities outside Metro Manila,” he said.

Tan stressed, however, that before relocating people, local governments must ensure that livelihood and sustainability are provided.

“You have to create the incentives. If you want someone to move, then you must create jobs and opportunities,” he said.

Because of the recent floods, the Quezon City government is planning to relocate over 200,000 rich and poor families living in danger zones to Montalban, Rizal and San Jose del Monte, Bulacan.

Notices have already been sent to the affected families, according to Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista, but it remains to be seen if the families will comply.

Private sector

Tan also suggested that the private sector “should be part of the solution” in addressing the worsening flood situation in Metro Manila.

He said the decisions on relocation and decentralization should not be restricted to the government.

“Who cares what the government sees or does not see? Government is a three or six-year term, the private sector is in for the long haul,” he said.

“Decongest government and get the private sector in on the act and get them to help make investments to save the cities because it will save their businesses as well,” he added.