Environmental Challenges for Urban Areas

MMDA Usec Cora Jimenez on Addressing Environmental Challenges in Metro Manila (Photo credit: Carl Elpa, EMB-DENR)


Every day, you wake up, dress up, have breakfast, and take your commute to work or school. Oftentimes, you start your day really early not only to avoid getting caught in traffic but to inhale less of the city’s air pollution. You want to walk or bike to work or school but you would rather not – it is too hot (no trees lining the sidewalks), it is too crowded (peddlers and street vendors occupy most of the space), and it feels dangerous.

We support Walk Manila’s campaign to make the city more walkable. We have been clamoring for this for the longest. The Road Revolution that Share the Road Movement initiated in 2014 even exposed that even though only 2% of the people in the Philippines have cars, they are given 98% share of the roads. Given this figure, is it not crazy to expect the remaining 98% (walking public) to walk comfortably if only 2% of our roads are provided for them?


This makes us think — how do we address environmental challenges in urban areas?


During the 13th UNU & GIST Joint Programme Symposium on Environmental Challenges for Urban Areas held in Pasig City last November 10-12, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Undersecretary Corazon Jimenez talked about addressing the environmental impacts of rapid urbanization in Metropolitan Manila.

These direct strategies were highlighted:

  1. Reduction of the volume of vehicles
  2. Elimination of smoke-belching vehicles
  3. Removal of solid wastes along waterways through clean-up programs

We really need to reduce the volume of vehicles in the country (or everywhere). I would even say that cars are the problem. While there’s no denying that it’s easier and almost hassle-free to get from Point A to B when you have your own car, it would be just the same when you get on public transport.  This iconic series of photos (posted below) commissioned by the Muenster Planning Office in August 2001 says it all. Just look at how much space it takes for cars, than for buses and bicycles, for the same number of people — and it is even the “car owners” who complain a lot against buses and traffic.

Photo credit: Muenster Planning Office, August 2001


Also, when we get “freed” from our mini-cells called cars, we get freed from getting sucked in completely by the oil cartel. There wouldn’t be calls against drilling and fracking because we do not need oil as much as we do now on a personal basis. Getting rid of our many cars speaks louder than holding banners saying no to oil companies.

Usec. Jimenez also talked about these indirect strategies:

  1. Urban Greening Program
  2. EDSA Make-over
  3. Promotion of Non-motorized vehicles
  4. Promotion of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000

Urban Greening is a must.

In a country like the Philippines where rain is almost expected, maintaining trees and parks along the roads and other spaces will not be a problem. Cities are best enjoyed when you can walk freely without the threat of eventually having respiratory diseases, and trees and a lot of urban greening would help negate the carbon dioxide being emitted by cars. The roads need to be redesigned to also serve the 98% of the public. Majority of the people do not own cars, and most probably do not have the means to own one, so majority of the roads should be made accessible and safe for them too.

EDSA Makeover (which is applicable to other cities) would need to include an improved public transport system – connected MRTs, unified bus systems that would follow strict pick-up/drop off schedules at strategic locations, and bike lanes.

Lastly, no one can underscore the importance of keeping things clean. Proper solid waste management must be in place. In public areas, waste bins must be visible and placed at a close distance to each other, so people would have no excuse to throw their garbage anywhere. There should be an extensive restoration/rehabilitation projects for esteros/waterways which must include waste removal, greening, and community education.  If the local governments cannot/do not have the political will to relocate the informal settlers, at least educate them that the esteros are not dumpsites/waste bins/restrooms.


Up for the challenge, Metro Manila?


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