The soaring temperature in Metro Manila is undeniably the effect of El Niño phenomenon —climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean with a global impact on weather patterns.
In fact, it was only in April of this year when the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) recorded the highest temperature in Metro Manila at 37.5 degrees Celsius. This latest data was close to the hottest temperature in the metro verified since 1987.
However, this heat is exacerbated by aggressive expansion and development in the metro. A 2010 study documented by Nivagine Nievares, a weather specialist at Pagasa noted that urbanization greatly affects the heat balance in Metro Manila, which leads to an increase in felt temperature by 1 to 2 degrees Celsius.
Construction materials like asphalt and concrete absorb and trap heat of the sun. Structural shapes of buildings, towers, houses and roads also affect the distribution of heat. So the heat we feel does not only radiate from the sun but also from the said urban surface materials. Indeed urbanization affects rainfall, wind circulation and the breeze from Manila Bay.
Metro Manila as the center of socio-economic activities in the country has to keep up with growing demands for more infrastructures have been built resulting in the fast deterioration of the environment. For roads and buildings to be built, hundreds of trees and foliage are cut down instead of incorporating them in the construction plan. Oftentimes we also cut down trees when we build or renovate our houses.
Over the years, the rapid and massive urban developments have in turn neglected the need for the city to breathe. We’ve built a concrete jungle. Consequently people confine themselves in air-conditioned rooms to cool off rather than stay outside in the blistering heat.
Sadly, rapid modernization overlooked the importance of trees, not only for their aesthetic purposes but for their ecological services as well. Trees absorb excess carbon dioxide (CO2) and potentially harmful gases and filter particulates out of the air by trapping them on their leaves and barks. They provide shade, fresh and cool breeze that we can enjoy for free.
Several studies noted that in one year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the amount of CO2 produced when you drive your car 26,000 miles. A large tree provides one deliver day’s supply of fresh oxygen for four people. Three trees placed strategically around a single-family home can cut summer air conditioning needs by up to 50 percent. By reducing the energy demand for cooling our houses, we reduce carbon dioxide and other pollution emissions from power plants.
It’s therefore important to strategically include trees when we plan our homes, businesses, and especially cities. Greenbelts, nature parks or pockets of lands with lush foliage and trees improve air quality, protect and or retain a portion of the area’s natural environment, retain wildlife’s habitat and provide urban dwellers outdoor recreational opportunities like safe biking and camping sites, and many other benefits only a natural environment can provide.
Trees and modernization can successfully thrive hand in hand. As city dwellers, we must realize the importance of trees in our daily lives and how they affect our daily routines. We should be active advocates of conserving and propagating trees and maintaining nature parks or greenbelts to ensure that they can continue to provide us with various environmental and health benefits. By doing so, there will come a day that we may not endure as severely this scorching heat anymore.
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