Cities are not islands, and why we need green flood management

BY EDM | 01 OCT 2016
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WWF asks why aren't green methods used more?
“Cities are not islands,” a participant in the Flood Green Guide (FGG) Bangkok workshop emphasized during a discussion about how to transform the soon to be released FGG into action by flood management practitioners. The WWF workshop took place last week in Bangkok bringing together global participants from Practical Action, International Federation of the Red Cross, the American Red Cross, Asian Disaster Preparedness Center, the Asian Institute of Technology, and the WMO Associated Programme of Flood Management.

The group came together to discuss how natural and nature-based flood management methods could support their work and how the FGG could contribute to their existing education and training programs. What emerged from a variety of participatory activities and discussions was a consensus that natural and nature-based methods were still largely misunderstood or underappreciated.

Participants stressed that conventional flood management approaches, such as sea walls and levees, were often seen as the default option, something that was relatively quick and visible and would produce an appearance of immediate results irrespective of their long-term success or viability. Over the last several decades however there has been a paradigm shift in flood management better practices moving away from trying to “control” floods and keep water out to managing floods and living with water. For example, after years of building dikes, the Netherlands is adapting and transforming how the country manages water related risk.

The Dutch have moved towards an integrated approach to flood management that includes non-structural solutions, such as land use planning, as well as natural and nature-based solutions to complement their existing infrastructure.

The Dutch experience is not unique, but the myth that engineering solutions alone can control flooding persists. The reality is that we cannot afford to ignore the suite of flood management options available, including natural and nature-based methods. No city, or community, is an island--when it comes to flood management we are all connected to our watershed--flooding that happens in one locality is often linked to decisions made upstream or downstream. This workshop was a first step in designing a training program to support the use of natural and nature based flood management included in the FGG.

For more information on the FGG and how you can get involved email us at envirodm@wwfus.org.

See also Practical Action.

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