The aim is to encourage municipal authorities to see their wetlands as natural reservoirs for floodwaters
A Community meeting, part of the Water as Leverage initiative, Chennai, India
rainwater to recharge underground water reserves, and restoring a coastal lagoon.
But this is just the start. These are widespread problems. With the Indonesian government, we launched a National Roadmap in Land Subsidence, offering potential natural solutions. And in 2019, we worked to scale up the idea of natural solutions to flooding and other water management problems on coasts, deltas and rivers across Asia. This is being done both within the Building for Nature programme and the Dutch government’s Water as Leverage initiative, which has targeted three flood-ravaged cities: Semarang; the Indian megacity of Chennai; and Khulna, on the Ganges delta in Bangladesh. The aim is to encourage municipal authorities to see their wetlands not as wastelands to be drained for urban growth, but as areas to be nurtured because they provide natural reservoirs for floodwaters, protecting the rest of the city. Chennai has grown rapidly on a flat plain close to the Bay of Bengal. Until the 1980s, the plain was mostly wetland. It had more than a thousand tanka, traditional local reservoirs linked in cascades that captured and transported rainwater, so combining flood protection and water supply. But today, as the city of 11 million people has spread, only 15 per cent of the wetland remains. As a result, the city suffers, at different times, from both damaging floods and severe water shortages. We are helping develop local plans to ease the problems by re- viving the tanka and wetlands, while also replacing urban concrete and asphalt with permeable surfaces that allow
At the Climate Action Summit in New York in September 2019, we formally launched an initiative to leverage fund- ing to develop such solutions in 15 more landscapes in five countries. The aim is to benefit 10 million people in the coming decade, through improved security and climate resilience for water, food and livelihoods. Building with Nature “integrates the services that nature provides into civil engineering practice,” says Fokko van der Groot of our partner Ecoshape, a public-private plat- form of Dutch dredging and engineering companies and knowledge institutions of which Wetlands International is an active partner. The ultimate aim, says Yus Rusila Noor, head of the Building with Nature programme at Wetlands International Indonesia, is no less than “to transform the civil engineering sector of Asia”. This may not be easy. The expertise and ambitions of en- vironmentalists and engineers can be very different. An important part of the work is educating future engineers about natural solutions, which we undertook in 2019 in eight universities and training institutions, reaching 2000 students in the year. And there is a growing body of case work from across the world for them to study. For instance, in 2019 we con- tinued our work with partners to develop plans and seek
One of Chennai’s tankas - traditional local reservoirs linked in cascades that captured and transported rainwater, combining flood protection and water supply. But today, only 15 per cent of the city’s wetland remains.
Wetlands Annual Review 2019
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