On reclamation and flooding
The letter pointing to reclamation projects as real cause of the storm surge in Manila Bay (Inquirer, 10/3/11) has caught the attention of the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA). Allow us to respond to correct whatever wrong information it may have impressed on readers.
Well-designed and properly constructed reclamation projects will not cause flooding. On the contrary, they can prevent flooding by providing added protection, such as sea barriers to mitigate the effects of accelerated rising sea levels, which is a direct effect of global warming.
A storm surge is the result of the piling up of water on the ocean’s surface as it is pushed by strong winds associated with low pressure weather systems such as tropical cyclones. The water during a storm surge is higher than the ordinary sea level, more so when it happens during high tide. Therefore, reclamation had nothing to do with the unfortunate confluence of strong winds and high tide that brought about the devastating rush of water into areas along the Bay.
What happened, in fact, was that the whole stretch covered by the reclamation projects under the Boulevard 2000 Plan along Roxas Boulevard—from the Cultural Center of the Philippines to the coastal road—did not suffer the same catastrophic rush of seawater, unlike the areas from the Manila Yacht Club to the US Embassy. The seawalls built to protect the reclaimed area saved the establishments and inhabitants there.
Storm surges were likewise reported to have occurred in coastal areas in Ilocos Sur and Camiguin, where there are no reclamation projects.
For any land reclamation activity, the relevant drainage outfalls and rivers are of vital concern and should be carefully examined in order to prevent the adverse effects of flooding on the main land. The reclamation projects along Manila Bay were implemented according to the Boulevard 2000 Framework Plan, which contains mandatory provisions such as the preparation of drainage plans that will satisfy technical, economic and environmental requirements. Its implementation was directed by a task force composed of various government agencies such as the Department of Public Works and Highways, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and local governments.
Land reclamation has long been recognized in other countries not only as a viable development strategy but also as an effective water control system to protect coastal areas from devastating natural forces of the sea. Countries such as the Netherlands, Singapore, Dubai and Japan, to name a few, have all successfully embarked on reclamation to advance their economies.
—PETER ANTHONY A. ABAYA,
and chief executive officer,
Philippine Reclamation Authority,
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