Pursuing development through responsible stewardship

MANILA, Philippines — Through the years, cultures have developed alongside nature, with the earliest communities thriving along riverbanks. While at most times, nature has sustained our communities to grow, we have had to find ways to thrive with the cycles of nature, protecting ourselves from weather patterns and natural hazards.

Now, more than ever, we have arrived at a point where we enjoy a wealth of lessons learned from centuries of development and have at our disposal innovative technologies that can aid us in pursuing more responsible ways of progress.

Building to protect communities: The story of Netherlands
One of the most interesting cases is the story of the Netherlands. The Dutch have a saying, ‘God created the earth, but the Dutch made the Netherlands.”

The Netherlands is a country that had been vulnerable to the effects of climate patterns way before the threat of climate change. With almost one-third of the country located below average sea level, the Dutch have fallen victim to sea level rise, storm surges, and flooding as early as 1134 AD.

To protect their people, livestock, and even natural habitats, they embarked on a massive building of dikes to serve as protective barriers.

For effective land reclamation, drainage canals and systems were built. Seeing that the reclamation protected their homes, lands, and livestock, communities took on the responsibility of draining their surplus water into the outside waters. This showed the active involvement of the communities and their support for the genuine intention of their reclamation project.

Improvements in reclamation processes continued on through modern times, bringing countless benefits to the Dutch people.

Thanks to the improvements in drainage techniques, there has been a significant decrease in the dangers of river floods and storm surges. They were able to cultivate extensive new areas of supporting food security. Water management systems complemented the reclamation designs, allowing the proper flow of water from riverbanks to an organized system of channels. Today, the benefit of these early reclamation interventions is enjoyed by the people of the Netherlands, serving as an inspiration to many other modern cities.

Protecting Pasayeños: A similar story in the SM Mall of Asia Complex

Not far from us is an integrated lifestyle city on reclaimed land which shares some similarities with the journey of the Netherlands.

Manila is one of the busiest cities in the world, home to more than 10 million people. With the vision to build responsible businesses that help improve life in its communities, SM built the SM Mall of Asia Complex. Faced with threats of rising sea levels, storm surges, and flooding, SM has employed global best practices to mitigate these effects.

In order to protect the communities inland, the SM Mall of Asia was built 4.5 meters higher than the average lower low water levels. This feature acts as a sea wall to serve as a barrier to rising water levels and storm surges.

It is complemented with strategically placed drainage channels to support the flow of water to the bay.

It is also one of the pioneers in building a sewage treatment plant (STP) for water recycling and proper treatment for water discharge. Being located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines is also vulnerable to earthquakes.

As such, driven piles and bored piles were installed underground, along with proper construction excavation methods, which provides protection against soil liquefaction and strength against the constant seismic events.

These design features allowed SM Mall of Asia to help protect inland communities through an average of 20 typhoons a year, four earthquakes, and sudden rainfall due to monsoons.

Healthier, more human, and integral progress
Contrary to the popular perception that there is a trade-off between progress and protecting nature, there have been examples of genuine pursuits that both help communities cope with the adverse cycles of nature while also protecting natural environs. A paradigm shift is illustrated in the examples given, be it as big as a country like the Netherlands or as small as a lifestyle city like SM Mall of Asia Complex.

This demonstrates how responsibly developed reclaimed land can also help people sustainably adapt to a harsh environment. By optimizing innovative technology and responsible stewardship of both land and water resources, we can achieve a type of progress that is healthier, more human, and integral.

Source: Philippine Star