Green-Grey Infrastructure in the Philippines

Building coastal resilience for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation

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Throughout its over 7,000 islands, coastal communities in the Philippines are highly vulnerable to the dangers posed by climate change and natural disasters.

Local communities dependent on farming and fishing are faced with rising seas and intensifying storms that batter the fragile coastline and jeopardize their health and way of life.
Recent extreme weather events, such as the 2013 typhoon Yolanda left over 6,000 dead and over 900,000 families displaced, and it is expected that climate change will increase the frequency of extreme weather events into the future. Green-grey infrastructure is an innovative tool for increasing coastal resilience against climate change and its impacts.

What is green-grey infrastructure?

Green-grey infrastructure is an innovative new approach that combines two well-established approaches to protecting coasts.

Green infrastructure is an approach that protects and restores natural ecosystems – such as mangroves, coral reefs and seagrass – that provide protection to the communities near them.

At the same time these ecosystems also provide other important ecosystem services, such as fisheries.

Grey infrastructure refers to traditional built structures that provide a high level of protection but often require maintenance and cannot adapt to a changing climate.

As seen in the aftermath of Yolanda, seawalls can be breached and mangroves may lessen the damage but are not always enough on their own. In many instances the most effective protection is a combination of both green and grey approaches.

Green-grey approaches integrate traditional “grey” engineering structures, such as sea walls or coastal armoring, and “green” infrastructure such as conservation and restoration of mangroves, coral reefs, seagrass and coastal wetlands. Green-grey projects often provide cost effective, long-term climate resilience to vulnerable communities and infrastructure.

project goals

In the next year, Conservation International and partners will bring innovative “green-grey” adaptation solutions to some of the highly vulnerable communities in the Philippines that were impacted by Typhoon Yolanda.

In close consultation with the local governments and communities, CI will support cutting-edge modeling of ocean, weather and climate change conditions to design a combination of natural ecosystem restoration and traditional engineering that is designed for to provide protection for communities, biodiversity, and critical coastal ecosystems. In partnership with the local governments, CI will then support implementation of this design.

Conservation International (CI) Philippines has decades of experience promoting healthy ecosystems for human well-being and working with communities and governments to develop and implement ecosystem-based climate change adaptation projects. In partnership with local communities and government, CI aims to design and implement a green-grey infrastructure demonstration project at a highly vulnerable site in the central Philippines, while offering alternative and sustainable livelihoods for local communities to ensure long-term sustainability of the project, communities, and biodiversity.