Ketsana Ondoy Watch

The Typhoon Ketsana Ondoy Blog (Alpha version)

Elevation is no Guarantee for Protection in Metro Manila

It’s almost instinct that when storms occur, people will always head for higher ground.  In Metro Manila, where exactly is higher ground?

Much of the Philippines’ premier urban area is actually built on a sprawling flood plain, and on the surface, much of the ground in its 16 cities and lone municipality has been leveled or flattened to accommodate extensive urban development. According to the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) website, Metro Manila “is relatively flat of about 0.81% to very gently sloping at 3.17%.”

Let’s take a short trip around some parts of Metro Manila and check out what’s up (literally) and what’s not:

Caloocan has two geographical zones, namely the coastal areas of in the southern part and the so-called Guadalupe Plateau. The southern part encompasses barely-noticeable foothills along with former tidal flats and flood plain areas, especially in the Dagat-Dagatan area, which is 0.992 meters below sea level.

Perenially-flooded Malabon is actually below sea level, and in fact is amusingly referred to as Metro Manila’s counterpart of Venice.  People in many of the city’s 21 barangays are so used to flooding that many residents keep boats. It doesn’t help that Malabon is also a seaside community.

The City of Manila is historically flood-prone due to the fact that it lies at the mouth of the Pasig River and is built on a riverine network of streams, rivulets, tributaries, creeks and canals, majority of which were eventually obliterated. As a result, even mere rains cause immediate flooding.

Marikina, the scene of some of the worst flooding recently, is located right in the center of a low valley with the Marikina River snaking through. Except for a few areas like Marikina Heights, the terrain is generally flat.

Muntinlupa has some areas that are above sea level, with some hilly areas reaching to more than 60 meters in the western part, but the terrain is generally flat to slopping towards the eastern part.

Seaside Navotas, dubbed as the “Fishing Capital of the Philippines”, is no different from neighboring Malabon’s malady. The city is a long and narrow delta, with as much as two-thirds of it below sea level.

Pasay is characterized by coastal plains along the Manila Bay area in the west and sloping areas towards the southeast. The coastal plains generally rise to only 2 meters, but can reach up to 24 meters on the southeastern part.

Bearing the name of its famous river, Pasig is generally flat terrain, except for a few areas such as Pineda, Kapitolyo, Oranbo and Ortigas Center. Flooding has always occurred in areas that were normally rice fields before urban development took over.

Pateros, the metropolis’ lone municipality, averages only up to 2-3 meters above sea level at its highest elevation. Hardly noticeable, it slopes reach up to only 2.5%, generally slanting downward towards Laguna de Bay.

San Juan has some of the highest areas in Metro Manila. In fact, one area is called Little Baguio due to its elevation. San Juan is generally hilly terrain, evident up to now in the many winding, narrow streets and its original name San Juan de los Montes, which is Spanish for “St. John of the Mountains”.

Many areas of Taguig are traditionally prone to flooding, especially towards Laguna de Bay, but it actually has a lot of elevated areas, with some parts reaching 51 meters high.  The ultramodern  Bonifacio Global City is relatively flat but is on high ground.

Surprisingly, and given its proximity to Manila Bay, Valenzuela’s highest point is 38 meters, but much of the city is only 2 meters above sea level.  Flooding also occurs in areas such as Arkong Bato, but not to the extent experienced in neighboring Malabon and Navotas.



October 9, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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