Complexities of eco-restoration involve multiple authorities

Submitted by Nitya Jacob | published 21st Sep 2022 | last updated 7th Apr 2023
Climate resilient building

Climate resilient building in Rotterdam


Urban areas are exposed to dangers from climate change. Beijing is one of the most affected. GCA brought together international experts and their counterparts in Beijing to discuss the city's water eco-restoration. The experts were Arnoud Molenaar, Chief Resilience Office, City of Rotterdam, Johan Verline, programme manager, Rotterdam Climate Adaptation Plan, City of Rotterdam and Chris Zevenbergen, Chair Delta Urbanism, Department of Urbanism, Delft University of Technology. The moderators were Joep Verhagen, Program Lead, Water & Urban, GCA and Chen Aiping, Regional Director of the China Office, GCA.

The objective of IWRM

The first topic discussed was what should be the main objective of IWRM - normal operations, disaster reduction, or shoud it be based on economic priorities?

Eco-restoration is complex with many authorities with different interests involved, and sometimes there are conflicts of interest, said Molenaar. The vision for the city or district is important - to have a more inclusive liveable city. City resilience is a comprehensive issue that should not focus on a single aspect. It is not only about water but also about roads and infrastructure.

Rotterdam is taking a holistic approach to eco-restoration. Molenaar says if zooming into one location causes conflicts, widen the area and selectanother location to combine and develop multi-functional solutions, and look at solutions from a broader perspectives.

Design based approaches are very useful in addressing the complexities. That is a different approach than starting with engineers and the experts, to address one issue in the complexity, said Zevenbergen. Design helps address it in a holistic way.

Coordination and communication

The second topic was communication across sectors and methods of coordination. At the start of the design process, experts from the government should sit together to seek consensus. It is really helpful to design long term strategies together. In Rotterdam. a toolbox has been developed that helps solve problems, and includes the socio-economic aspects to make the city more attractive, said Verline.

Government's role

The third topic was the responsibilty of the government for climate adaptation. Zhao Dan, Beijing Municipal Institute of City Planning & Design, asked how Rotterdam balanced jurisdiction with land ownership and what was the solution of cross-jurisdictional coordination.

The Netherlands has a Delta plan that is reviewed every six years. Provinces are responsible for groundwater. At the city level, municipalities and water authorities share responsility for water management.

Rotterdam has a climate adptation program called WeatherWise. Verline said the goal is to be climate proof by 2030. This means that all activities are carried out with climate adaptation in mind. WeatherWise has 4 tracks: public space, new develoments, existing built envioronment and citizens. It helps ensure all parties are on the same page.

Public grey space is transformed into green space wherever possible. Real estate developers have to build climate proof and existing homeowners are encouraged to make their property more climate resilient through subsidies and awareness. Citizens are encouraged to join and can get subsidies to modify their roofs and and lawns.

Information sharing for disaster resilience

The fourth topic was disaster resilience through information and experience sharing between cities. Zevenbergen said information sharing helps increase the warning time to better prepare ourselves. Small cities can exchange information to better anticipate and prepare for events.