Imee: “Sponge Cities” Are The Way To Go In Storm Water Control

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Senator Imee Marcos said the government must explore the concept of “sponge cities” to mitigate damage from typhoons of unpredictable intensity due to climate change.

Marcos filed Senate Resolution 573 on Wednesday to develop the application of this concept while investigating 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,” Marcos 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,” Marcos added.

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 not only at flood control but also rainharvesting for drinking water and non-potable uses like urban sanitation.

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

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

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

Marcos cited that architect and urban planner Felino Palafox Jr., who was the project’s senior planner, had already warned back then that a “do-nothing scenario” would have catastrophic consequences.

“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,” Marcos added.

“Maynilad’s recent water interruptions due to highly turbid water are a sign that water treatment systems also need improvement to cope with climate change,” Marcos also said.