Caught (up) in traffic

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Floods and traffic

August 2013


Transport and traffic problems take a backseat to the flooding problem during this time of the year in the Philippines. Since there are practically only two seasons (dry and wet) in the country, floods become a genuine concern once monsoon rains arrive and these are usually complicated by a high frequency of typhoons between August and November. Many major roads in Metro Manila are prone to flooding including Espana Avenue, Araneta Avenue, Gil Fernando Avenue, Ortigas Avenue, and EDSA. Flash floods often lead to traffic congestion and commuters and motorists alike would have a hell of a time traveling yet it seems very little has been done to address a situation that’s been here since the Spanish period. This is a perception by many people and a reasonable one given the historical evidence of flooding in the area and elsewhere in the country.

IMG06611-20130819-1323Pedicab ferrying passengers in a flooded residential area

There are many images on the current floods in Mega Manila that one can find in various reports online and on TV. The Telegraph provides good photos for describing the situation around Metro Manila and the surrounding areas, and especially in the low-lying areas like Marikina, Malabon, Rodriguez and Cainta. These images could have been taken in any other year in the past and the images would probably be the same with slight changes in some buildings that could have been improved (e.g., additional floor?) in response to the flood experience.

Floods and possible solutions have been the topics of discussions every year and usually during this rainy season. While there have been efforts to address this problem, these are usually and obviously not enough and a more comprehensive approach is needed. Quite obviously, too, solutions that tend to dig up faults in urban planning throughout Metro Manila have led nowhere as legitimate residents and other locators in these areas are not in a position to give up their properties just like that. Relocating informal settlers and others who have encroached from waterways and other critical areas is a start but will have limited impacts in part because Mega Manila does not have a good drainage system in the first place.

Expensive as they are, engineering solutions like perhaps what Tokyo has done in this underground wonder. Of course, this example is a kind of ultimate solution and would require tremendous resources to realize. But then this is also like the transport and traffic problems we are experiencing where years (or decades) of inaction and hesitation due to resource and technical questions have led to the despicable transportation we have now The reality is that solutions will not get cheaper as we continue to balk at the cost of the required solutions. Floods and traffic will not be solved overnight. It will take years to improve the lives of many people in flood prone areas and implementing solutions should have started yesterday.

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