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Natural Disaster Mitigation in the Philippines
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The goal is to utilize a full spectrum of methods to greatly reduce the impact on the disaster for the local populations. While there is not any viable or realistic approach to staving off natural disasters, they can be foreseen, planned for and the damage and cost greatly mitigated when they do strike. In such a way, the cost of the natural disasters, both financially and in terms of human life will be greatly reduced, as will the cost of emergency response work and the programs for disaster relief.

During the time of typhoons Milenyo and Reming, there was also a volcano blast at Mayon Volcano in the province of Albay in the Philippines. As a direct result of this disaster, more than sixteen hundred people died in the resultant mudslides. When this occurs on a small scale, it is known as “erosion” but on a larger scale, it becomes “landslides” or “mudslides”.

Oddly enough, in their own way, the devastating tsunamis work in much the same way, with the earth seemingly throwing vast amounts of resources at a small area with great force. Fortunately, that means it is effectively just as easy to combat one as it is the other with a few minor differences. In this case, there is a combination of natural remedies in addition to some selective construction techniques that will help to alleviate much of the damage … most notably in the cost in human lives, that result from these disasters.

In the case of erosion and landslides or mudslides, reforestation efforts need to be part of the initial efforts regarding Natual Disaster Mitigation. While these efforts have taken place before, primarily in Region 2 of the Philippines, they were not properly managed and have proven to be, in some ways, more detrimental than beneficial.

Proper management is one of the keys to the success of any humanitarian efforts but in most cases, some long-term management and solutions are needed to prevent anything undue from happening at a later date. In the case of the reforestation efforts, the Paulownia tree was used in much of the reforestation efforts. Commonly known as Sa Cahoy Ng Buhay or the Tree of Life in the Philippines, the trees were selected for good reasons … but sadly the management seems to have been a bit lacking.

The Paulownia is a truly amazing tree as has been noted in other locations on this site. Unfortunately, in no small part due to its rapid growth rates and ability to regrow if the roots are not completely removed, it is also (rightfully) considered to be an invasive species across much of the globe.

Disaster Mitigation in the PhilippinesIn the case of the Region 2 Reforestation Efforts, this led to the newly introduced species taking over entire local ecosystems. While the issues of mudslides and erosion have been greatly reduced, the local environment has unduly suffered as well. Proper, long-term management of these programs will allow for the benefits to be enjoyed while at the same time, mitigating any “unintended” or “unforeseen” man-made disasters resulting if even from the best of intentions.

When utilized in a more controlled fashion and properly managed over the long terms, the Paulownia Tree provides an excellent resource and one that certainly has a place in humanitarian disaster mitigation. Though it must be noted that in the case of erosion and mudslides, the trees and accompanying root systems are only one part of the equation and when it comes to tsunamis and underwater, even the mighty Paulownia is probably not going to prosper.

There are a number of man-made construction “obstacles” that can be integrated into the program that have been proven very effective both underwater and in the mountains under even the worst of circumstances.

In these cases, a specialized, patented construction technology (that is actually surprisingly inexpensive and cost-effective) is used to build barriers. Underwater construction consists of a channel (allowing for the shipping lanes to remain open and unobstructed) of bafflers. These bafflers are inserted into the ocean bed in such a manner that, in the event of a tsunami or even excessive tidal flows, the structure actually strengthens and turns the tide back against itself while at the same time channeling the remaining flow through expanding tubes that blunt the initial force and deplete much of the energy from the tsunami before it reaches the shoreline.

While the same basic principles are used above ground to prevent both the deadly impact of erosion and mudslides and landslides, there are some variations.

In the case of above-ground structures, a certain number of buildings will generally be built utilizing the same materials and serving as shelters while they are surrounded by more decorative structures to serve in the same vein as the bafflers in underwater construction. In this case, there are generally what can easily be utilized as planters for either decorative plants or other, more essential plants to be planted around the buildings that serve as shelters.

Again, the underground portion is designed to be strengthened by the impact in much the same way as the Athenian and other Greek Warriors dug in their heels when their shield formations were hit by larger forces or the way that defensive linemen in American football dig in their heels to prevent the passage of players from the other team.

The angular shape of these structures forces any land or mud flow around the shelters while at the same time, forcing the slide back on itself. Not only does this blunt the force of the flow but it also, again, uses the energy of the mudflow or landslide to work against the remaining flow of material and debris.

Debris within the flows brings up another concern that is being addressed in the Humanitarian Disaster Mitigation programs.

In the case of mud flows and land slides, it is often the debris that does more damage … or at least “paves the way” for more damage to occur. A nipa hut made out of bamboo or plywood does not stand a chance but even more sturdy construction materials will often collapse when hit by debris. The mud flow generally impacts with somewhere in the area of three thousand foot pounds per square inch according to the measurements in the records utilized by this construction firm.

However, the building materials being utilized, have a compressive strength in the area of twelve thousand pounds per square inch. In and of itself this is not an absolute guarantee that no damage will occur, but given the double layer of protection from the barriers and the construction materials in the barriers and shelters, the damage can be kept to an absolute minimum.

In evidence of their strength, these same materials are also used in Humanitarian Disaster Mitigation Projects to provide safety and shelter against both earthquakes and typhoons as well.

The houses in areas that are prone to earthquakes (which means effectively, all across the Philippines in particular) are built using the same construction materials and methods. The base however, below the foundations, is constructed on what boils down to a natural, rolling barrier that allows for the home or building to move back and forth as a singular unit.

The construction design is such that it allows for a higher level of flexing within the planar surface of the wall while at the same time retaining the entire strength of the unit as a whole. Such a design is ideally suited to the quakes along the Pacific Ring of Fire and there is no reason to believe that different types of earthquakes would fare any better when pitted against this technology … but the design enhancements do not stop there.

The Japanese have created some marvelous architectural techniques to combat high winds. No matter how the wind may hit the home or the building, it cannot hit without being deflected at least partially. When these architectural methods are utilized in combination with the other factors as noted herein, the resulting buildings are virtually impregnable by typhoons of any strength.

Again, the integration of numerous techniques, not “blanket-answers” or “one-size solutions” is the only way to tackle the problems and the root causes and to provide real and lasting relief.

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