Senator Imee R. Marcos, chairwoman of the Senate economic affairs committee, Wednesday said the government must explore the concept of “sponge cities” to mitigate damage from typhoons of unpredictable intensity because of climate change.

imee1 - Water solutions touted by Senator Marcos
Senator Imee R. Marcos (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

Marcos filed Wednesday Senate Resolution 573 to develop the application of this concept through a Senate investigation into the alleged man-made disaster caused by typhoon ‘’Ulysses.’’      

 “The goal of the Senate inquiry is to find solutions, not people to blame. Let’s lay off pointing a finger at each other and instead point in the direction the country should go,” she stressed.       

“Beyond rescue and relief distribution, which are but coping mechanisms, we need long-term planning for better disaster mitigation ASAP,” Marcos said.      

“We need to do more than just dredge rivers and lakes, which will only keep water inland. Storm water from the highlands must be better absorbed by rural and urban landscapes or find its way to the sea,” she added.        

Marcos said the creation of “sponge cities” is a storm water management strategy that has succeeded in controlling flash floods in China and India.       

The strategy involves a network of water infrastructure, from catchment areas to water treatment facilities, aimed at flood control as well as rain harvesting for drinking water and for non-potable uses like urban sanitation.      

Permeable paving for roads and sidewalks, made with porous materials or by spacing non-porous surfaces, allows cities to absorb more rainwater, Marcos said.        

“It restores natural flood control where urbanization continues to expand and covers up open ground with more concrete and asphalt,” she explained.       

Excess storm water is directed towards the sea through drainage systems, floodways and spillways that prevent riverbanks from breaking and lakes from overflowing, she added.        

“The Philippines already had the beginnings of a sponge city master plan way back in the 70’s. The most crucial part of the flood control project at the time, the Parañaque Spillway, was supposed to drain water in Laguna Lake towards Manila Bay but was discontinued in the 80’s and remains a dream,” Marcos said.     

“Let’s also boost our first line of defense against storm waters through serious reforestation in long-denuded watershed areas and the upgrade of decades-old dams,” she added.          

Marcos said recent water interruptions due to Maynilad’s limited ability to handle turbid water are a sign that water treatment systems need improvement to cope with climate change.

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