On track towards a smart flood early warning system for all
In the high altitudes of Baguio City, tourists flock to experience the summer capital of the Philippines. Come typhoon season, however, intense rainfall cause flooding and landslides. Devastation affects the city, with disproportionate impacts on vulnerable women and other marginalized members of the community.
Disasters, after all, are not gender neutral. Often, when flash floods hit, people who are most vulnerable, such as women living in poverty and people with intersecting vulnerabilities (like those who are elderly and living with a disability), have to scramble to pack necessities and get their family to safety. Sometimes, when the water rises so quickly, panic ensues and everything is left behind.
The city government has been working to address these gaps in coordination, planning, and preparation. The ASEAN Australia Smart Cities Trust Fund (AASCTF), to support Baguio, has been collaborating with local officials and agencies to develop a smart flood early warning system (FEWS). Not only will this project include a flood mitigation action plan, outreach and dissemination plan, and enhanced capacity building program, but it will also apply a gender transformative lens across the FEWS.
This approach exemplifies AASCTF’s crosscutting mandate to mainstream gender equality and social inclusion in its projects. In Baguio, the goal is for the FEWS to provide appropriate, applicable, and timely early warning that reaches the last mile. Benjamin Magalong, Mayor of Baguio City, said: “Key to becoming a more resilient city is ensuring that we can better meet the needs of all our citizens, particularly those who are marginalized and vulnerable."
The AASCTF project team – led by global consulting firm Ramboll and supported by UK-based non-profit Practical Action Consulting – conducted a gender and inclusion study to identify the most vulnerable communities in the city and understand their experiences during times of flooding and evacuation. The study was guided by Practical Action’s UN Women-endorsed ‘Missing Voices’ methodology, which applies an interview approach to find, build trust with, and listen to individuals facing multiple axes of marginalization.
Building on the study findings, the team also prepared a policy brief that contains targeted policy and practice recommendations for the smart FEWS. In addition, a plan to translate both the study and recommendations into specific actions was developed with city government agencies. “The actions drafted can form the basis of implementation plans, standard operating procedures for the FEWS, and even guidance for future iterations of the system,” said Catherine Grant, Ramboll Lead Consultant and AASCTF Task Team Leader.
“By mainstreaming gender equality and social inclusion into the project, the city government has embraced the journey towards a gender transformative flood early warning system."
Women and other marginalized members of society carry different burdens and have their own challenges during flooding and evacuation, which are necessary to include in planning and decision-making. Photo: ADB
“By mainstreaming gender equality and social inclusion into the project, the city government has embraced the journey towards a gender transformative flood early warning system.”
Ramboll Lead Consultant and AASCTF Task Team Leader
Elga Reyes, AASCTF