Arcadis conducts technical mission in Iligan City

Crossing the hanging bridge traversing the Iligan River in Tambacan.

Iligan, June 5 2012 — A team of specialists from Arcadis, an international company that provides consultancy, design, engineering and management services in the fields of infrastructure, water, environment and buildings, visited Iligan City from May 31 to June 4, 2012 to provide technical assistance to the city government on planning for the river basin and floodplain areas in the aftermath of Typhoon Sendong. This was made possible upon the invitation of UN-Habitat, which has a partnership with Arcadis called the Shelter Program which aims to involve Arcadis technical professionals in city planning, particularly in the recovery of disaster stricken areas.  The visit was also done in partnership with the Iligan City Planning and Development Office who provided information and maps and organized meetings with city officials, department heads and representatives of national government agencies.

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Rey Roque, Head of the Housing and Resettlement Office, orients the Arcadis team.

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Shelter Program Director Bert Smolders examines a damaged house in Orchid Homes.

On December 16, 2011, heavy rains from Typhoon Sendong (international codename: Washi) caused catastrophic flash floods in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City, killing over 1,000 people, and damaging over 50,000 houses. The estimated cost of damages to infrastructure, agriculture and school buildings amounted to PhP1.7 billion. The catastrophic floods were a result of extremely heavy rainfall on large watersheds which drained out to major rivers traversing Iligan and Cagayan de Oro City.

The high death toll was also attributed to the confluence of several factors: complacency related to the fact that this kind of typhoon and flood in the area is rare; lack of a flood warning system; settlements located on river deltas and floodplains; flooding happening at night when people were already asleep; and logs and other debris carried by the flood which caused a lot of damage to infrastructure and housing. In Iligan City, the Mandulog and Iligan-Pugaan River swelled their banks and overflowed, causing major damage to the settlements alongside. A total of 36 out of the 44 barangays of the city were affected by the flooding.

About five months after the disaster, the Arcadis team was called in to provide the city an overview and understanding of what planning for river basins and floodplains entail and provide some key strategies for managing flood risk as well as how to enhance the quality of the river.  In addition, the Iligan City Development and Planning Office also requested for inputs on how to develop the Iligan River and Bayug Island ( a delta at the end of Mandulog River) to enhance the physical development of the city, add to open spaces which can be used for recreation, and increase economic activity particularly. Other requests were to examine the viability of identified new urban centers situated within the floodplain; policies for areas at high risk to flooding considering private ownership of land; and wastewater management for settlements near the city water source.

The Arcadis team was composed of Bert Smolders, Shelter Program Director, Mark DeMarta, architect and team leader, David Railsback, environmental engineer specializing in fluid mechanics and hydrology, David Ludwig, an ecologist, and Gunilla Goulding, wastewater management specialist. The members of the team came from Arcadis offices in the Netherlands and the US.

The team spent three days on field visits to flood-affected areas, new relocation areas, and the city’s water source. The flood-affected areas covered included Barangay Hinaplanon, Upper Hinaplanon, San Roque, Santiago, Digkilaan, Mandulog, Tambacan, and Mahayahay. They also visited ongoing relocation sites in Barangay Sta. Elena and Digkilaan, and proposed new relocation sites to be developed by the National Housing Authority in Upper Hinaplanon and Dalipuga.

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Engineers Gunilla Goulding and David Railsback interview a construction worker in the Red Cross Village in Digkilaan.

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Briefing of the team by Councilors Joe Zalsos and Rudy Marzo and City Administrator Orlando Maglinao.

At the end of the visit, the team shared their recommendations with the city and other stakeholders. The recommendations included general principles for watershed management, flood risk reduction, flood control, improving water quality, and wastewater management in relocation sites as well as areas near water sources. They were also able to provide more specific development strategies for the areas that were requested by the city, such as Bayug Island and the Iligan River.

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Courtesy call with Iligan City Mayor Lawrence Cruz.

The technical mission supports UN-Habitat’s mandate to promote sustainable urban development in Philippine cities particularly those vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and disasters like Iligan City.  A similar technical mission was conducted by Arcadis in Cagayan de Oro City.