Understanding and addressing risks of flooding in the city: The case of Barangay Potrero, Metro Manila
Malabon City is one of the most densely populated cities in the Philippines and is prone to heavy flooding due to its topology. Malabon City and the surrounding regions have experienced rapid growth. The areas surrounding the river previously were used for agriculture and fishing but have become industrial and housing zones while remaining the most prone to flooding.
In 2011 the Partners for Resilience (PfR) program began working to reduce the damage caused to the city and its residents from flooding. This has included incorporating more resiliency into building design, climate change adaptation, and providing more information to residents on how to act before, during, and after a disaster. PfR found several aspects to their program the most valuable:
- Engaging residents on different levels. The residents of these cities are diverse. Previous efforts at flood risk mitigation used all types of media such as TV, radio, social media, and mobile phones which bombarded residents with overwhelming information. Instead, PfR attempted to develop targeted outreach. This included developing films to be shown in schools and at public meetings, large-format maps displayed in public spaces highlighting the highest risk flood areas and holding training sessions with early mitigation actions that can be taken.
- Providing more actionable information on the emergency warning system (EWS). The previous EWS had few sensors and only monitored a few variables. By providing more in-depth data than just water level, such as forecast and modelling data, PfR developed a “no-regrets” action plan. This helped change people’s mindset from passive acceptance of flooding to active risk mitigation.
- Building partnerships between organizations and government units. In Metro Manila government districts are often marked by streets or small landmarks and there has historically been little to no collaboration between neighboring government officials. PfR worked with residents and government officials to develop action plans based on feedback that holistically examined the whole city rather than just one political district.
- Building disaster risk reduction (DRR) programs. Several city-wide efforts such as tree planting and solid waste management can reduce flood risk and were implemented by city officials in collaboration with PfR.
Many of the individuals of Metro Manila have experienced flooding since childhood and have become complacent of flood warnings. An overarching goal of the PfR was to empower individuals to proactively take steps to reduce flood damage rather than reacting only at the time of the flood. The program identified shifting urban mindsets such as this to be challenging and requiring multi-pronged approaches to overcome.