Impacts from climate change are already being experienced worldwide and are only projected to continue: extreme weather events with higher frequency and intensity, higher precipitation in some areas, drought in other areas, rising sea level and more. Cities are often at the most risk to impacts of climate change due to their frequently coastal locations and vulnerable populations. At the same time, urban areas serve as the hubs of economic activity and innovation. The positive outcome of this simultaneous combination of threat and potential is exemplified in the way that cities are acting to combat these risks: planning resilience within the fabric of the city.
Resilience, or the capacity for adaptability, flexibility and ultimate survival despite whatever acute shocks and chronic stresses disrupt the system, incorporates the traditional urban approach to managing risk, Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) while taking into account that extreme events and hazards are now more common and thus must be addressed more holistically. Da Nang and Can Tho, Vietnam, and Bangkok Metropolitan Region of Thailand are examples of urban areas implementing proactive resilience projects to absorb and alleviate shocks and stresses. At the Resilient Cities Congress 2016, Reality Check Workshops on 7 and 8 July will be working sessions for Da Nang, Can Tho, and Greater Bangkok to share knowledge, best practices, and challenges to further advance climate resilience strategies in these urban areas.
Communicating climate change risks for adaptation in Da Nang, Vietnam
Da Nang is the third largest and one of the fastest-growing cities in Vietnam. Situated on the coastline of the Han River in central Vietnam, Da Nang faces a variety of harmful natural occurrences; the most severe being floods and storms exacerbated by its low-lying nature (CityVoices). In Da Nang, like many cities worldwide, there is often a gap between understanding climate change and realizing tangible climate impacts on the local level and what can be done – as a resident – to lessen or prevent these impacts.
The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in collaboration with the Climate Change Coordination Office (CCCO) of Vietnam, launched a climate change communication project with residents in Da Nang, as well as Can Tho and Quy Nhon. Its purpose is to more effectively communicate risk, uncertainty, and possible actions that residents can take. One highly effective communication was a video series in which well-known reporters from the area shared important information and practical, tangible guidance for how to prepare for and prevent risks. For example, residents should discard standing water on their property, as mosquitos reproduce here and can carry diseases like Dengue fever. The findings show that residents were more likely to take action if the recommendations came from a trusted figure, such as a local reporter. The project is expected to influence local climate change policies by encouraging greater incorporation of communication of risk and uncertainty to residents (IDRC).
Community-based erosion management in Can Tho, Vietnam
Can Tho is the largest city in the Mekong Delta and consists of an intricate network of rivers and canals that are the social, cultural, political and economic heart of the city. In recent decades, Can Tho’s population growth, urbanization and industrialization have negatively impacted this crucial canal network and its drainage capacity due to the presence of larger boats on the canals, unplanned construction and pollution. These anthropogenic causes combined with more frequent and intense storms and floods in the region have exacerbated bankside erosion and disrupted flow. In turn, eroded banks with no biological buffer are less capable to alleviate waterway flooding.
In response, with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation and technical support from ISET, the Climate Change Coordinating Committee of Can Tho consulted residents and technical experts, and launched a community-based erosion management project: constructing biological embankments along the crisscrossing canals in the An Binh ward. Consisting of bamboo fences, Hyacinths and Melaleuca trees, these natural barriers reduce waves and landslides caused by storms, thereby lessening the severity of floods (ACCCRN). An Binh residents have true ownership over the project, as they contributed either their time and labor or cash to help build the embankment. Further, community groups in the area are responsible for monitoring and maintaining the embankments.
“Monkey Cheeks” and other water management strategies in Bangkok Metropolitan Region, Thailand
Bangkok is Thailand’s largest city, with 22% of the national population living within the greater Bangkok Metropolitan Region. It is situated on the Chao Phraya River delta, and has also been forced to adapt to stronger and more frequent floods due to climate change. The most damaging flood in Thailand over the last decade was the 100-year flood in 2011, which affected over 13.5 million people (ADPC).
To alleviate the damaging impacts of heavy flooding over the last decades, Bangkok developed a flood prevention project called Kaem Ling, meaning “monkey cheeks.” A water storage system, the “Monkey Cheek” project consists of flood gates, pumps, and polders that together are able to drain surplus water during storm events into retention basins to keep the city dry. The unique name refers to the fact that monkeys are able to store water in their cheeks (Thailand Today). In response to the 2011 flood, Bangkok government has drafted a Flood Management Master Plan for Chao Phraya basin and surrounding area to improve disaster management strategies and bolster infrastructure. With research assistance from the IDRC, the Plan will also contain guidance for policymakers based on research findings (IDRC). The Pak Kret Municipality, a 36 square kilometer area of the Bangkok Metropolitan Region, is also actively increasing its resilience to extreme weather events. Pak Kret has designed and implemented a practical and participatory strategy to address flooding in the municipality. One facet of this plan incorporates flood management, coordination, and communication guidelines – coined the “Pak Kret Model”.
Cross-sectoral collaboration for resilience
Researchers from the University of Mahidol, heavily involved in Pak Kret’s resilience planning, recognizes that community knowledge of how to collaborate in times of crisis is critical. Furthermore, these cases demonstrate that cross-sectoral collaboration and community engagement can and must be incorporated in proactive resilience planning as well. In Da Nang, Can Tho, and the Bangkok Metropolitan Regions, residents are a driving force and have ownership over these projects – be it by joining a community group to maintain biological embankments or removing a bucket of standing water. The common success factor is apparent: inclusive cross-sectoral collaboration which engages cities, experts, and most importantly, citizens.
Want to learn more about resilience in Can Tho, Da Nang and Bangkok Metropolitan Region? Attend the Reality Check Workshops from 11:00 – 12:30 on 7 and 8 July at the Resilient Cities Congress 2016 in Bonn, Germany. These special feature sessions are organized and supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC).
Feature photo © Municipality of Da Nang, Vietnam