San Fernando Eyes Reduced Flooding, Improved Sanitation from Green Wastewater Investments

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San Fernando, the capital city of La Union Province in the Philippines used to suffer from frequent flooding; and septic tanks were their only means of containing and treating wastewater.

Following the CDIA-supported project preparation study (PPS) in 2014 and their progressive investments on drainage and wastewater management thereafter, the city is now seeing the benefits of reduced flooding and improved sanitation for at least 38,000 residents.

Recently, CDIA released a tracer study report, which details the progress of the city in implementing the measures under the Green and Integrated Wastewater Management PPS with financing support from the local and national governments.

Back in 2014, the CDIA team recommended a 20-year roadmap that outlines strategies toward the sustainable management of wastewater, and improved drainage and flood control services in the city. It proposed investments estimated at Php854 million (˜$17 million).

“From our monitoring activity, we found out that San Fernando was able to implement the CDIA-proposed drainage and wastewater management projects, albeit incrementally,” says CDIA Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist Nick Baoy. “It indicates the city’s resolve toward a `clean and smart environment’, a major thrust under the city’s vision of ‘People’s city by 2025,” he adds.

Wastewater Management

To improve sanitation and wastewater management, the city has taken forward CDIA’s recommendations and implemented four of the seven prioritized investments amounting to Php22 million (˜$440,000).

These include the rehabilitation of the existing wet market wastewater treatment plant and sewerage system, and the refurbishment of the city’s septage treatment plant.

It has also implemented a septic tank sealing program for households and business establishments using ‘lusob’ or bottomless pits, which pose significant threat to public health and pollute groundwater resources. At the time of the PPS, an estimated 52% of households were using septic tanks (many of which were ‘lusob’) and the rest of the households were discharging untreated wastewater into the environment.

The government has further prepared a wastewater, drainage and green development master plan to provide the basis for future sector plans and programs.

The city has moreover completed the construction of a decentralized wastewater treatment for the city hall complex as part of its  sanitation program.

Overall, the interventions have benefited at least 22,000 people with decreased water pollution and improved sanitation.

Drainage and Flood Control

The Department of Public Works and Highways, a national government agency mandated to implement flood control and other public works has allocated Php270 million (˜$5.4 million) to implement a range of drainage, flood control, road, and slope protection projects indicated in the CDIA study.

Examples of these projects include drainage improvement in the Sevilla area, removal of obstructions and improvement of cross-drainage structures in some portions of the national road, and drainage improvement in the north of San Fernando’s central business district.

DPWH also continues to support the city in pursuing its integrated watershed management plans and making drainage and flood control investments in accordance with sustainable urban drainage system (SuDS) approaches. They have likewise helped improve the capacity of identified streams and bolstered drainage and slope protection in critical sections of the city’s road network.

San Fernando city government itself funded Php12 million (˜$240,000) for the construction of drainage canals and rainwater harvesting tanks and the conduct of a topographic survey in relation to the preparation of the city’s master plan. Other related works are set to commence this year.

Discussions with various stakeholders during the tracer study have established the fact that the implementation of PPS-recommended drainage and flood control projects in the past five years has mitigated flood risks in San Fernando and enhanced its climate resilience.

DPWH has attested that its various projects have decreased the frequency of flooding events, decreased flood levels to less than .5 meters and caused flood waters to subside in less than two hours.

With these improved conditions, an estimated 16,000 people have benefited via improved sanitation, increased protection of water resources, decreased disruptions to economic activities and livelihood/commercial undertakings, and savings on medical expenses, among others.

“Aside from the financial support of the city and the national government to the various investments, key to the progress in San Fernando is the alignment of the projects to the city’s vision, and the cooperation between the City Environment and Natural Resources Office, the Engineering and Architecture Services Office and the Department of Public Works and Highways,” says Nick Baoy.

“We are delighted to know that the PPS has served as an instrument for improving coordination between the three agencies; and that they value CDIA’s climate resilience approach in the selection of infrastructure projects,” he adds.


Market Wastewater Facility

Septage Treatment Facility

Drainage for Flores Street. Photo by DPWH


Drainage for Capital Side Road. Photo by DPWH

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