Learning from Our Neighbours

This is a piece I’ve written during the peak of Habagat devastation last August 17-19, 2012. Kinda late I know but I felt like posting it, since even weeks after we are heavily flooded, a 2-hours worth of rain can still flood our streets and main highways until now. 

What do Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia have in common?

Historically speaking, all three shared the same ancestry from the Malay race. All belong to Southeast Asian region, all hailed as the Tiger cubs of Asia, and all three enjoy strong economic and commercial ties with each other as with other Asian countries.

Geographically and meteorologically speaking, the three countries are almost the same. All three experience the strong monsoons generated by the Pacific Ocean that can get really serious.

Also, there’s this one predicament they all share: Metro Manila, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur are all flood-prone areas.

The only difference is that, both Malaysia and Indonesia seemed to be on the process of solving its flood problems, while Philippines, as proved by the severe flooding in Metro Manila brought by the Pacific monsoon last Aug.8,2012, has barely even took one step forward.


Kuala Lumpur’s SMART solution

Way back from the 1970s, floods are regular disasters in Malaysia. Just like the Philippines, Malaysian floods are a natural result of monsoons during the local tropical wet season roughly from October to Match. Just like the Manila, Kuala Lumpur used to suffer under severe flooding due to inadequate drainage system and poor flood ways.

But in 2003, the Malaysian government planned and ordered the construction of SMART Tunnel (SMART stands for Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel). To be short, it is a major national project which aims to solve of flash floods in Kuala Lumpur and also reduces heavy traffic jam during rush hour.

According from its site, The SMART system will be able to divert large volumes of flood water from entering this critical stretch via a holding pond, bypass tunnel and storage reservoir.  This will reduce the flood water level at the Jalan Tun Perak Bridge, a major road in Kuala Lumpur, to spill over.

Malaysia SMART Tunnel Structure
Picture courtesy of http://www.tunnels.mottmac.com

As of July, 18 2010 the SMART system has prevented seven potentially disastrous flash flood in the city center; having entered its first mode 3 operation only weeks after the opening of the motorway.

Now, this ambitious project may have and may have not worked here in the Philippines. The Federal capital Kuala Lumpur is much smaller in geographical area than of Metro Manila. Also, Manila has ten times the size of the population as those in KL. That also means there’s little congestion in Kuala Lumpur; quite understandable since the commercial and business centres are evenly distributed throughout the country while Manila contains the bulk of the running major industries across the Philippines. Having less people settling in the area had meant more infrastructures to develop.


Jakarta’s ongoing dredging operations

Indonesia and the Philippines may have more things in common with each other. Both are large archipelagos. Both capitals, Jakarta and Manila, are the most populous. Just like Manila, Jakarta is the country’s economic, cultural and economic center. In fact, Jakarta and Manila are identical capitals with identical society and now facing an identical woe on floods brought by the rainy season. Both have problems with relocation of slum areas and garbage disposal. Both have problems with poor drainage system in its major roads.

In February 2007 flooding alone in Jakarta, which lasted for 22 days, the disaster affected more than 2.6 million people, forcing 360,000 leave their homes. Total damage was estimated at nearly US$900 million according to the UN.

Prompted by the disaster, the government developed the Jakarta Urgent Flood Mitigation Project/Jakarta Emergency Dredging Initiative Project (JUFMP/JEDI Project). It aims to rehabilitate waterways to improve Jakarta’s flood management system.

Due to inadequate maintenance of drainage channels, poor solid waste management and urbanization trends as resulting to severe flooding, the JUFMP/JEDI Project will aim to rehabilitate 11 floodways and canals, and four retention basins identified as priority sections by the Jakarta flood management. These priority sections have been mapped out by the flood management system as you may see on the map below:

Priority map of the massive dredging project
Image courtesy of worldbank.org

The World Bank has contributed US$139.64 million while the government of Indonesia will give US$49.71 million for the project which had been implemented on May 2012 and expected to be complete in March 2017.

Whether JUFMP/JEDI  will reduce flooding or not in the capital remains to be seen, but that only proves that even Jakarta has a comprehensive plan under the watchful eye of the World Bank. The motivation of the Ministry of Public Works of Indonesia may have also come from counter-measures developed from foresights that more and stronger monsoons and typhoons will hit the area in the near future.

Insofar as pro-active projects Manila is concerned, the only monitored project the government had enacted is the construction of dikes and revetments along the 16-kilometer stretch of Pasig River roughly a year after Ondoy. It did hold Pasig River at bay but it didn’t stop the flood from engulfing most parts in Manila last Aug 7, 2012 and possibly other deluge that will hit the country soon.

When it comes to disaster management, the government tends to be reactive. Actions and plans are only made as soon as PAGASA reported an upcoming tropical depression or typhoon. If the rain persists all day and flooded all the drainage systems, we all know where it’s going to lead – Evacuation of the residents living in inflicted areas. It’s the same thing happening over and over again. Even now, the people are getting tired of evacuating to safer places, as they fear to leave their homes unguarded and vulnerable to looting.

The lack of a systematic pro-active approach on disaster preparedness can cost us a lot more in the future than it is now. The weather and the flood are getting severe as each year passes on, and the country is mostly at the forefront of it. To rely on dike constructions, river dredging and evacuation pre-emptive measures is not going to be enough soon as more and more terrible storms are bound to hit the country.

For this, the government needs all the support they can get. We, as its citizens, should not complain nor condemn it on its faults; we are all at fault and accountable of the disaster and loss, for whose garbage and waste is it that polluted the river and clogged the waterways but ours?

If other countries can, so can we. I fully believe that the Filipino spirit is not only smiling and surviving throughout the ordeal. It’s learning from it.


To learn more about Malaysia’s SMART tunnel, watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0W4xHweJRc0 or visit http://www.smarttunnel.com.my/

To learn more about the JUFMP, go to: http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/NEWS/0,,contentMDK:23087004~menuPK:141310~pagePK:34370~piPK:34424~theSitePK:4607,00.html



About sentimentalfreak

Consistently inconsistent. Forever searching and wandering. 'Tis only writing that calms down her restless little soul.

Posted on September 11, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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