In our webinar Water Solution #3: Risk & Resilience we focus on adaptive and resilience designs of water infrastructure to address challenges of water quality, floods and droughts. We also highlight the importance of availability and access to data-driven early warning and implementing systems. Johan Verlinde knows alla bout living in a high-risk environment. As a Program Manager for the Rotterdam Climate Adaption Plan ‘Rotterdam Weatherwise’ his goal is to take the next step in preparing the city for climate hazards like heavy rainfall, heat and drought. This is done in close collaboration with citizens, private sector, social housing corporations, water boards and more. Besides climate adaptive measures in the public space, where space is scarce, climate proofing the private space will become more and more important.
What is ‘Rotterdam WeatherWise’?
“The name we use when we talk about the Rotterdam Climate Adaptation plan, which is the follow up of the Rotterdam Adaptation Strategy which was launched in 2013. With the new plan we make the city a more attractive and nicer place to live and stay and at the same time climate proof. In Rotterdam in particular, as a low-lying city in a delta, we need to think about the risks of climate change. In order to keep the city liveable for all its residents, but also to safeguard our status as a secure port city. Rotterdam Weatherwise sets out the challenge confronting the city, and provides insight into what the consequences could be of a more extreme climate. At the same time it is a call to take (district-)focused action, in partnership with Rotterdammers and companies. I don’t think Rotterdam Climate Adaptation plan sounds very appealing to the public. In order to connect and engage them, we picked a name that resonates better with the people who hear about it.”
What kind of actions are part of this plan?
“A great deal is already being done in Rotterdam: strengthening dykes and constructing water plazas and green roofs. These include the water plazas and the construction of the Blauwe Verbinding (Blue Corridor), but also the improvement and introduction of greenery on the Rotterdam Riverside. The ‘smart’ introduction of greenery is a solution to counter heat with which we can add quality to the city. The city has already implemented many new green spaces, sewerage and water projects in recent years. A team of experts collaborates with local communities and individual residents in order to achieve this – we work together with all the authorities, businesses, housing corporations and citizens. Together we fight the negative effects of heavy rainfall, drought, land subsidence, heat and flooding.”
Rotterdam’s future challenges
What are the bigger challenges in this programme?
Johan: “Finance, but it’s getting easier. Stakeholders know the sense of urgency of adaptation and also recognize the benefits of developing a greener, more adaptive city. And are willing to pay for it. It helps we have a mayor wo is truly committed to climate adaptation.
Another challenge is to stay connected with the local communities – that is key to prevent failures. Linking initiatives by citizens and businesses to the goal of a climate- resilient city contributes to neighbourhood engagement, reduces loneliness and mobilises the ideas and creativity of Rotterdammers. This is the water-sensitive approach. Asking citizens for input at an early stage of municipal projects will improve the plans and this means they will be better embedded. By offering space for entrepreneurs with innovative solutions for climate adaptation we strengthen Rotterdam’s economy. An example of where we involved the public too late, was the first water plaza in a neighbourhood where many young families live. When we presented our plans for the water plaza, the neighbourhood expressed their fears: they were afraid young kids might drown when a basin was filled with water. They rejected our plan and we decided not to push it. Insetad we offered an alternative and implemented the water plaza in another area.
Another challenge to make the entire city climate-resilient and remain a pioneer is scaling up the approach and continue to finetune it based on new insights about the speed and effects of climate change. These are not yet entirely clear. That means we must be flexible in order to achieve climate adaptation and accept a certain level of uncertainty.”
Further reads & watches:
Please read for inspiration and howto’s: https://www.rotterdam.nl/wonen-leven/rotterdams-weerwoord/Urgentiedocument-2020_EN.pdf
Furthermore, these videos might be of interest to you too:
- Waterpleinen (in Dutch)
- Lecture for Liveable Cities Singapore
More information on the AIWW webinar: Water Solutions #3: Risk & Resilience.
Johan’s colleague Chief Resilience Officer Arnoud Molenaar will speak on behalf of the City of Rotterdam. Other speakers at this webinar:
- Lykke Leonardsen
City of Copenhagen, Head of program Resilient and Sustainable City Solutions
- Aimilia Pistrika
European Investment Bank, Water Engineer
- Edgar Westerhof
Arcadis, National Director for Flood Risk and Resilience
- Lindsey Roland Nieratka
City of Boca Raton, Sustainability Manager
- Fokko van der Goot
EcoShape, Programme Manager
- Joyce Langewen
RESILIO, Policy Advisor Climate Adaptation