The metropole of Manila or Metro Manila, capital of the Philippines, is one of the world’s most densely populated megacities.

The conglomerate on the eastern bank of Manila Bay has 24 million people, making it the world’s fourth-largest city and home to about a quarter of all Filipinos. They are cramming together in less than a percent of the country’s total land area.

The Philippines and its capital experienced strong economic growth over the last years, while the capital also benefited from a growing labour force of highly educated, English-speaking young people. A quarter of the population however, lives below the poverty line.

The continued strong growth comes also at a high cost. It is grinding Manila to a halt. Roads and the metro are in a state of permanent congestion making commuting impossible, waste is piling up, the air pollution is suffocating, the shortage of affordable housing is forcing people to live in the slums and the water pollution is so bad that clean water for the region is imported from a nearby province.

Regular floods

The city is regularly flooded. Four rivers flow through Metro Manila into Manila Bay: the Marikina, the San Juan, the Parañaque and the Pasig. The floods are caused by heavy rainfall. Their impact is worsened by the fact that slum dwellers dump their waste in the waterways, causing obstructions and further flooding. Many slum settlements are situated close to the water and therefore most vulnerable to flooding.

There are plans for a large-scale Flood Management Master Plan with support of the World Bank support to address the problems. It is important that the local communities are involved in this process. However, meanwhile much can be done to better prepare local communities for floods and to invest in innovative solutions to protect houses against high water and better management of water streams.

The local residents who are well organized can play an important part. The Human Cities Coalition will assess the local needs before defining its projects, but flood management will certainly be part of our work field.