Under this context, ICLEI East Asia Secretariat co-organized the conference session Water Management and Climate Change Adaptation – Through Nature-based Solutions with Chinese Society for Urban Studies (CSUS) on 9 December 2016 in Guangzhou, China, and brought together cities and experts to share their opinions on possible nature-based solutions in addressing water challenges and enhancing urban resilience.
With Xixian New Area as a case, Zhaoxian Deng, Director of the Sponge City Technology Center of Xixian New District, shared his experiences in water management in Northwest China. As he explained, the framework of green urban infrastructures in Xixian New Area includes the surrounding water system, green open spaces, Ring Park, and green streets. Together, the four elements serve as the foundation of green urban living. Deng believes that green infrastructures have positive impacts on ecosystem conservation, sponge city construction, ordered urban spatial structure, multi-objective-oriented urban traffic control, and improvement of urban functions, and should be considered as an approach towards urban transformation.
Dr.-Ing. Harald Sommer, Vice President of Ingenieurgesellschaft Sieker GmbH, introduced Storm Water Management cases that have been pursued in German cities, in particular, through top-down approaches. With cases of business centers and green roof appliances in residential areas, Sommer presented rainwater management projects through creating low-laying areas and planting green vegetation to allow better soil permeability, while improving urban landscapes at the same time.
Dennis Kalisch, Postdoc Research Fellow at Technical University Berlin, said that, despite the concept of nature-based solutions being interpreted distinctively by various groups, one should remember that the initial intention of such solutions is to work with nature. With creative designs and recognition of the importance of nature in urban planning, it would allow cities to come up with more sustainable, cost-effective, and multi-purpose solutions that could help build resilience.
Jiang Zhao, Head of Urban Water Management Division of the China Eco-city Academy, suggested that instead of relying on grey infrastructures, sponge cities should include systematic, multi-purpose and flexible alternatives for objectives in building resilience against climate effects. While it is critical for infrastructure plans to have shared goals, it is also essential to recognize the differences among areas and to develop tailored solutions for each cities.
Isabel Torres de Noronha, Project Director and Senior Policy Adviser at Ocean and Sustainable Development (Portugal), presented two city cases in Africa and Portugal. In both cases, she highlighted the importance of including consideration of ecosystem, cultural autonomy, and valuation of traditional knowledge in long-term development plans, so as to enhance sustainability.
Being one of the pilot low-carbon cities in China, Zhuhai has made efforts in transforming towards sponge city. With the key objectives being watershed remediation and heat island effect mitigation, Yuxi Zhu, Director of Engineering Design Center at Zhuhai Institute of Urban Planning and Design, listed five areas the city is currently targeting, which include: public water supply network, rainwater collection, treated sewage reuse, alternative urban water supplies and water source protection zones. Zhu concluded by suggesting that sponge city construction should be problem-oriented, and that proposed solutions should reflect natural features and requirements of each city.
With one French city and one Swiss city as examples, Shenglong Kong, Senior Researcher at Global Infrastructure Basel, demonstrated how they have been providing technical supports promoting practices of nature-based solutions as a non-profit organization.
Through the conference session, speakers and audience came to understand there are constructive yet different perspectives on climate change adaptation in the context of water management: while EU cities take a focus on natural ecosystem, Chinese cities are more dedicated into infrastructure performance. It is of ICLEI’s interest to facilitate international knowledge exchange between cities and each party can benefit from lessons in other cities.
This session is one of the ICLEI-CSUS conference series, which provides a platform on practical sharing on issues of urban sustainability between Chinese city officials, experts and the international counterparts.