Climate Change and its Effects
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) reports that climate change is an actual occurring phenomenon, and it is linked directly to human activities that emit greenhouse gases. Climate change refers to the variation in the Earth’s global climate over time, ranging from decades to millions of years. Changes may be driven by internal processes, external forces or, as mentioned, most recently by human activities.
No area of the world is more vulnerable to climate change than Asia and the Pacific. Climate change poses a dire threat to the region’s families, food supplies, and financial prosperity. (Go to the ADB website to learn more about this.)
To learn more about climate change in general, or to get more background information and news reports on the Typhoon Ondoy crisis and others like it, visit our resources page.
In September of 2009, Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) dumped an unprecedented amount of rainfall over the country, causing massive floods that killed hundreds and displaced many thousands more. While the typhoon was not as strong as previous typhoons, the devastation was immense and far-reaching.
Local and international authorities cited the typhoon and the unusual amount of rainfall as proof of the rapidly spreading effects of climate change.
Careless urban planning is also to blame for the severity of the impact. Failure to develop and/or enforce land use plans, building codes, and effective waste management systems are a few reasons why the typhoon has severe consequences. The winning design will demonstrate how proper urban design can help mitigate the effects of future disasters caused by climate change.
Impact on the Poor
Though the disaster affected both rich and poor alike, the effects were most felt throughout the marginalized communities. International experience shows that urban poor communities in developing countries are the slowest to recover, because of their limited resources.
With little or no savings before the disaster, the urban poor faced further financial hardship when the storm destroyed their homes and belongings, and disrupted their livelihoods. Impassable roads made it difficult to travel to work. Businesses were crippled by the storm, halting employment. The informal sector was also heavily hit. Micro-enterprises flourish in urban poor communities, with livelihoods usually based in the home. When homes were washed away, so were sources of capital, such as inventory and equipment.
National Housing Need
Developing socialized housing has historically been a challenge in the Philippines. As rural populations continue to migrate to city centers in search of jobs and better opportunities, housing demand increases. With an already daunting backlog of an estimated 500,000 units, the typhoon only exacerbated an already overwhelming problem. It is estimated that 93,000 new housing units will have to be built to accommodate victims of the disaster.
An additional 83,000 houses are required to relocate houses in danger zones to safe locations. Faced with this daunting challenge, new and innovative approaches are needed to address housing demand in the Philippines.
Of the homes that were totally destroyed, 78% were makeshift dwellings comprising informal settlements. With a lack of viable alternatives, the urban poor turn to the unoccupied lands in the city, usually in danger zones, along riverways, waterbanks, easements, and alluvial planes. Their location and the low quality of their structures make informal settlements extremely vulnerable when disaster hits. With Typhoon Ondoy, the implications of this issue could no longer be ignored, as thousands of informal settlers filled government evacuation centers. If these victims are not engaged in a comprehensive housing program, informal settlements will spring up again and the country will be faced with similar outcomes in future disasters.
Housing the Urban Poor
As of 2005, 44% of the nation’s population lives in slums, suffering deplorable living conditions. Slum-upgrading is the process in which an informal settlement is formalized (gains land tenure) and social, economic, and environmental improvements are made within the community. Providing housing for urban poor disaster victims is essentially an exercise in slum-upgrading, as the goal is to build back better than before the storm. While the opportunity is presented because of an unfortunate event, it is now an chance to give a community a livable space; something it did not have even before the typhoon.
Current slum-upgrading approaches in the Philippines provide excellent assistance in the form of financial programs, community organization, and basic infrastructure. However, many developments fall short when it comes to sound architecture and design. The winning design will be one that considers the needs of the urban poor, beyond basic infrastructure; one that fosters social growth within the community through design instead of hinders it. It is a call to divert from the standard housing project designs which only keep occupants in poverty. The urban poor benefit most from sustainable service provision. Savings on water and electric bills can make it possible for a family to send their children to school. An urban garden can bring affordable nutrition to households which struggle to afford 3 meals a day.
However in order to gain the attention of policymakers and implementers, projects of this nature need to be affordable. Government agencies in developing countries have insufficient funding to house the urban poor. Land is expensive, construction costs are high, and often local governments resort to out of city relocation for illegal settlers and disaster victims. There are few examples in the Philippines or internationally which suggest that relocation is sustainable, mainly because it distances residents from livelihood opportunities. The winning design will show that innovative approaches can make in-city housing developments affordable.
Design Against the Elements is a response to the problems brought about by the global concern of climate change and disaster readiness. However, the initiative has roots in, and grows beyond, the mere conditions of climate change and its physical manifestations: it is also driven by a need to address poverty, socialized housing issues, urban planning problems, and the country’s limited resources.