UST BECAME an evacuation center for around 1,600 Thomasians trapped on campus last Sept. 10 after torrential rains flooded the district of Sampaloc in a matter of minutes.

Here’s bad news: Flash floods will come oftener for two more years.

Rogelio Singson, secretary of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), has admitted that UST will have to wait until flood mitigation projects are completed.

“Flash floods will continue until we’re able to do the major pumping system improvement and additional drainage,” he said in an interview over radio station DZMM.

Until then, Sampaloc will continue to catch rain water from Quezon City.

“Since Quezon City is higher [than Sampaloc], the water cascades down to Sampaloc,” said Manila City Engineer Armando Andres, in an interview.

To address the problem, the DPWH is working on the “Blumentritt Interceptor,” a pumping and drainage improvement project aimed at preventing flooding in the area by catching the flow of rainwater from Quezon City. This will prevent clogging of the drainage system of Manila, Singson said in the radio interview.

The project will cover three areas—España Boulevard and the Sta. Mesa and Sta. Cruz districts.

College of Architecture Dean John Joseph Fernandez said recent flooding in UST was a result of “backflow” from surrounding roads that have been raised.

“According to the DPWH, they are raising major thoroughfares so that [flooding] would not impede the flow of transportation and work,” he said. “The idea is to make the water go to the side streets and keep the major streets clear of water.”

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Fernandez added that the drainage system of the Sampaloc district is very small compared with the density of the population.

“Now, we have tall condominiums, and residents contribute to the clogging of our drainage system,” he told the Varsitarian in an interview.

Meanwhile, Danilo Idos, DPWH-Urban Roads Projects Office (DPWH-URPO) director, said the intensity of rainfall nowadays is greater than before, leading to frequent flash floods.

“The rain intensity before was only around 10 millimeters per second,” Idos said. “Now, it is even greater at 70 millimeters per second.”

Aside from heavy rainfall, people living along creeks and canals cause flood waters to subside slowly, he said.

Andres said people have to be more careful in disposing of their wastes to ease flooding in the Sampaloc district.

“The drainage system along España [Boulevard] was cleaned recently, and eight truckloads of garbage were collected,” Andres said. “Plastic, styro-foam, and the like enter the drainage system and clog it.”

Solutions

Experts have long pointed to solutions to flooding in the Sampaloc area.

In 2010, Thomasian architect and urban planner Felino Palafox, Jr. sent a letter to President Aquino, proposing urban development solutions to deal with disasters such as floods, typhoons, and earthquakes.

“Despite our country’s history and frequency of disasters, including very destructive earthquakes, typhoons, floods, fire, volcanic eruptions, landslides, and rising water levels due to climate change, our cities, towns, and communities have been developed without or with lack of urban planning, architecture, and engineering considerations,” he said in the letter.

Palafox included 23 proposals to improve flood control, such as replacing roads with water-permeable pavements, allowing sewerage systems to store rain water; and putting rainwater-harvesting facilities next to schools and residential areas.

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However, the government was only able to implement two out of Palafox’s 87 recommendations.

Lawrence Pangan, Facilities Management Office in-house engineer, said UST has taken measures to ease flooding.

“We have cleaned the drainage systems inside the University,” Pangan said. “The approaches [to the] entrance gates were also raised to delay the flooding.”

Fernandez however said flooding in Manila won’t be prevented, only delayed. Road networks inside the University could be raised, but it would be expensive, he said.

“Four years ago, the entire road network within the University was raised,” he said. “The University was safe [from flood] for a while but the roads around the University were raised [afterwards], and UST became a catchment area instead,” he said.

“The University [is planning] to create a sort of drainage system underneath the road to delay the flooding,” Fernandez said. Andre Arnold T. Santiago

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