How infrastructure is planned and developed plays a crucial role in how well a country mitigates disaster risks and how well it bounces back after calamities. The Philippines, in particular, has seen the direction of infrastructure development change significantly after it was hit severely by several notable natural disasters in the 2000s and the 2010s.
The long-term outlook for the country indicates that even more severe weather events will become commonplace in the near future. As a result, new infrastructure developments are now employing technologies and best practices to help them survive and overcome future calamities. Here’s how current infrastructure development is helping reduce the country’s disaster risk:
1. Improves Disaster Recovery
Infrastructure development can improve disaster response by providing critical infrastructure to aid relief efforts. Assets like emergency shelters, hospitals, and backup power and water supply systems can all play a role in mitigating the chaos that often happens during and immediately after a disaster. In addition, better-developed airports, seaports, and roads can help ensure the unrestricted movement of disaster relief personnel as well as critical supplies, saving lives and preventing potential civil unrest.
2. Ensures Clean Water Is Available after Disasters
Access to safe water and sanitation is critical in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. The disconnection of regular water supplies in the wake of major disasters may cause survivors to consume water from unsafe sources, leading to deadly waterborne disease epidemics. When left unmanaged, these epidemics can be potentially as deadly as the natural disaster that precipitated them.
Today, disaster-prone areas in the Philippines are being developed to ensure that adequate water and sanitation are continuously available in future calamities. In some special economic zones, like Aboitiz InfraCapital’s LIMA Estate in Batangas, water treatment facilities are available as part of the end-to-end water and wastewater services being rendered to the local community. These facilities could serve as models for future climate- and disaster-resilient systems that will be developed to provide continuous service and prevent water-borne diseases in the aftermath of a serious event.
3. Better Infrastructure Improves Communication and Connectivity
Digital infrastructure development is not only for facilitating unimpeded commerce during normal times. It can also enhance communication during disasters, making it easier for authorities to disseminate critical information and coordinate relief efforts. Also, investing in disaster-resistant telecommunications infrastructure can ensure that people in affected areas can communicate with authorities and loved ones during and after calamities. This can help streamline relief efforts, preventing confusion and helping ensure that disaster relief resources are allocated wherever they are most needed.
4. Infrastructure Development Enhances Structural Resilience and Longevity
Recent typhoons and storm surges have exposed the vulnerability of the Philippines’ aging transportation infrastructure. In particular, the storm surge that accompanied Typhoon Yolanda severely damaged port facilities, roads, and communications equipment, preventing needed disaster relief personnel from accessing the disaster site or understanding the true extent of the damage until days later. In addition, Tacloban airport was also severely damaged by the unexpected ferocity of the event, preventing its use to bring in critical supplies until several days later.
This event and several others that followed it demonstrated the need to build stronger, more resilient infrastructure to cope with the types of disasters the Philippines is likely to face. With better infrastructure in place, we can expect people and goods to be able to move safely and efficiently during and after future calamities.
5. It Improves Early Warning Systems
Infrastructure development in disaster-prone countries should also include early warning systems. These systems can aid authorities in advising and evacuating people who may be vulnerable to an imminent disaster. Modern technologies such as seismographs and gas sensors for volcanoes as well as weather monitoring systems provide real-time data and forecasts to help authorities prepare for and respond to serious events.
6. Better Infrastructure Development Reduces Future Climate Risks
Multiple sources indicate that the Philippines is one of the countries that is most affected by the ongoing climate crisis. An estimate places the country’s losses from typhoons alone at 1.2 percent of GDP annually. Without better infrastructure, the costs may become even higher in the future. Given this, infrastructure development policies should not consider the durability of new infrastructure assets but also the long-term environmental impact of the projects themselves.
In particular, infrastructure policymakers in the Philippines as well as other parts of the world need to initiate a shift toward reducing the carbon emissions associated with building, operating, and maintaining vital infrastructure. With a concerted effort, local infrastructure can be built to not only resist future natural disasters, but they can also be designed and managed in a way that reduces their contribution to the climate crisis.
The direction of infrastructure development plays a critical role in determining how well a country is able to survive a serious disaster. While better-quality and more plentiful infrastructure assets certainly couldn’t hurt, it’s also just as important to build these in a way that helps reduce their contribution to the ongoing climate crisis.
Today, with the Philippines’ population still rising and the country heading straight into more numerous severe weather events, it’s important to allocate the country’s growing wealth into developing infrastructure that allows it to effectively meet whatever climate catastrophes are to come. By investing in eco-friendly infrastructure that is designed to withstand future disasters, the Philippines can not only better prepare for and respond to any future crisis, but it can also ensure continued growth and progress after these events occur.
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