Water as Leverage for Resilient Cities: Asia

Water as Leverage for Resilient Cities: Asia

Water as Leverage

Water as Leverage for Resilient Cities: Asia was launched in 2017 at the 23rd Climate Conference in Bonn, Germany.

The program called for transformative resilience project proposals in the fields of water, climate adaptation, and urban planning for the cities of Chennai, India; Khulna, Bangladesh; and Semarang, Indonesia. Teams were challenged to come up with detailed, innovative, and integrated climate-adaptive solutions that could be applied to selected societal challenges in the three cities.

Ongoing support from Water as Leverage will enable each of the cities to move toward implementation of the resilience interventions generated by the design teams. Based on the results, these initial concepts can potentially be replicated and scaled up across the whole Asian region and the rest of the world.

The conceptual designs of the six multidisciplinary teams will be used for the Shenzhen Design Week 2020, International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam 2021 and the Dubai Expo 2021.

A Call for Action

Water as Leverage

On World Earth Day (22 April 2018), Water as Leverage launched its first Call for Action.

Over 35 proposals focusing on Resilient Cities in Asia were received for the first edition of Water as Leverage. Six international teams of water and climate experts, engineers, scientists, architects and urban planners were selected to develop groundbreaking, innovative approaches to tackle the immense climate and water challenges in three cities in Asia: Semarang (Indonesia), Khulna (Bangladesh) and Chennai (India).

In each of the three cities, the call for action focused on analytic strategies and innovative project designs. Teams test, refine, question or expand upon opportunities to increase resilience and develop scenarios to inspire action. By using the Research by Design method, each team will concentrate on implementability and outline actionable steps by which their team's vision can be achieved. The aim is to develop impactful, innovative, integrated, and bankable climate action project proposals that have secured support from local stakeholder coalitions.

Parallel to this on-the-ground approach, Water as Leverage will support the teams by helping to connect networks and foster a transformative approach and methodology. WaL will also monitor and guide the project proposals in terms of their replicability, scalability, systemic approach, knowledge production, governance principles, sustainability, viability, bankability and, of course, their contributions to the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Goals of the COP21 Paris Climate Agreement. The goal is to evolve from facing landscape of problems to a landscape of solutions.

The role of the cities and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO.nl), in close cooperation with co-financiers AIIB and FMO, is crucial in moving the results of the call further towards implementation.

Water and Climate Challenges in Asia

Water as Leverage

Water is the leverage for climate impact, yet 'it takes millions to invest billions wisely'.

That is the conviction of the Netherlands Special Envoy for International Water Affairs, Mr. Henk Ovink. The Water as Leverage for Resilient Cities: Asia programme provides these catalytic first millions, with the aim of developing conceptual designs that leverage water for real urban climate resilience.

The three WaL pilot cities in India, Bangladesh and Indonesia represent a diverse array of water and climate challenges from flooding to land subsidence to drinking water salinization. These challenges to people, property and prosperity are not unique to these places - Asian cities are some of the hardest-hit by water-related natural disasters and account for 83 percent of the world population affected by rising sea levels. As the President of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), Jin Liqun, said:

"Asia is at a critical juncture. Its role on the world stage is increasing, but the region now faces new and complex challenges. We will not, and cannot, change the course of the planet alone, but we will step up, alongside other members and partners, to do our part to build a sustainable tomorrow."

The six teams of international and local experts started working in September 2018. In May 2019, the teams submitted 24 project proposals that became the basis for 15 programmes tailored to address the specific resilience needs of each city. Solutions developed over the course of this programme can ideally be scaled and replicated across Asia and beyond to address water resilience challenges.

Partner Organizations

Water as Leverage

The Water as Leverage for Resilient Cities: Asia programme was created in partnership with public and private agencies, financial organizations, design firms and national governments from around the world.

The full list of partners includes: The Global Center on Adaptation, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR), UN-Habitat Design Lab, Global Resilient Cities Network (formerly know as 100 Resilient Cities), Architecture Workroom Brussels, WWF, Pegasys, Water Youth Network, Partners for Resilience, Dutch Development Bank FMO, the cities of Chennai, Khulna and Semarang and the Netherlands government. The Water as Leverage programme is also endorsed by the UN/World Bank High Level Panel on Water.

These organizations have come together to promote the development of bankable, innovative and comprehensive climate-adaptive urban water proposals for the cities of Chennai (India), Khulna (Bangladesh) and Semarang (Indonesia) through the Water as Leverage for Resilient Cities: Asia Programme.

Design Workshops

Water as Leverage

Design workshops were an integral compnent of the nine-month collaborative, comprehensive and competitive WaL process.

The aim of these working sessions, presentations, knowledge sharing and networking was to generate suggestions, opinions and ideas for next steps to transform the teams’ approaches into more concrete conceptual designs to address the cities' unique water challenges. Teams also interacted with local stakeholders and collect sources to further shape these conceptual designs. Ultimately, the goal was to facilitate the developement of ground-breaking proposals and turn these into projects that strengthen structural and cultural resilience.

Workshops were separated into two phases, as follows:

Phase I: Research and Analysis for the Development of Conceptual Designs Workshops included:

Local workshops 1st round, September-October 2018 The first round of local design workshops in Chennai, Khulna and Semarang, took off to a flying start. Design teams in all 3 locations worked together and informed stakeholders about the innovative and transformative character of the Water as Leverage programme.

Local workshops - 2nd round, November-December 2018 During the second round of local workshops in November and December 2018, the conceptual designs for each city were presented, discussed, verified, and explained. Later, the teams met in Singapore for the first Regional Workshop to discuss the challenge of connecting proposals with financial initiatives from development banks.

Regional workshop - 1st round, December 2018 The Singapore Regional Workshop marked the end of the first phase of the programme with the presentation of conceptual designs for each city. Key connections were established, lessons learned, and knowledge was shared in a collaborative spirit, enabling further progress to be made in these non-standard, large-scale, transformative projects.

Phase II: Development of Proposals for Urban Water Project Workshops included:

Local workshops, 3rd round March 2019 With the goal of channelling their knowledge and focusing on implementation, the six multi-disciplinary teams met in the respective cities in March, together with international and local experts. The workshops were well attended, and all parties were committed to seeing the process through. This alignment was crucial to the next phase, in Singapore, whereby the feasibility and implementation steps would be defined.

Regional workshop - 2nd round April 2019 In March, all parties came together in Singapore to wrap up the first phase and to define the next steps. There is now a roadmap defined for each of the three cities, including aspects such as enabling environment, to help ensure that the programme’s comprehensive approach stays in place. Next steps have been identified as to who does what, how it is organized, and when the results can be delivered, for further replication and scaling-up.