Rotterdam on the path to becoming a resilient city

A resilient city according to resilientcity.org is one that “has developed capacities to help absorb future shocks and stresses to its social, economic, and technical systems and infrastructures so as to still be able to maintain essentially the same functions, structures, systems, and identity”.

One city on a path to becoming a resilient city in the face of climate change is Rotterdam.

Rotterdam becoming a resilient city

Rotterdam becoming a resilient city

Rotterdam’s strategy to become resilient

In Rotterdam, heavy rainfall is causing disruption and damage as water floods the streets and cellars of houses while sewer overflows discharge directly into the canals and waterways. With increased temperature from climate change resulting in heavier storm events, Rotterdam is at further risk of flooding: For every one degree increase in temperature, rainfall is projected to increase by 14% increasing the likelihood of flood damage to public areas and buildings as well as disruption to transport. Rotterdam’s Climate Initiative (RCI) Adaptation Strategy aims to create a city that is ‘attractive, economically strong and climate proof’. The Strategy has four core parts to it.

First, ensure the city’s urban water system is in good working order through active maintenance and where necessary upgrading of the system to reduce the city’s vulnerability to flooding.

Second, reduce the pressure on the system by creating underground water storage spaces and link these to other urban activities, for example an underground water storage facility doubling as an underground car park. Above ground green roofs, urban vegetation and water squares are used to temporarily store and release very slowly ensuring infrastructure is not damaged.

Third, encourage and support the participation of all stakeholders in climate change adaptation, for example Rotterdam is promoting the ‘Tile out, Green in’ initiative in which inhabitants are encouraged to replace their paving in their own gardens with plants and vegetation. The purpose of this and other initiatives is to create a shared responsibility between public and private landowners for the collection of excess rainfall.

Fourth, add value to the environment, society, economy and ecology through adaptation projects. Rotterdam is providing an attractive location for sustainability-focused companies to test innovative environmental technologies, which enhances the local economy and creates ‘green jobs’.

The take-out

To become resilient cities can implement hard and soft measures including upgrading infrastructure, implementing green infrastructure, involving all stakeholders and attracting adaptation investments.

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Author: Robert Brears

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