International Development Planning Review

Nature Based Solutions for urban water management in Asian cities: integrating vulnerability into sustainable design

International Development Planning Review (2020), 42, (3), 381–390.


Nature Based Solutions (NBS) for urban water management seek to harness natural processes and (re)connect diverse flows in the urban water cycle for increased ecological sustainability. Developed in Australia, the US and Europe, the application of these approaches for urban water management tends to focus primarily on improving the environmental sustainability of grey water infrastructure. In many Asian cities, where the coverage of existing grey infrastructure is partial, and in some cases declining, the applicability of such approaches seems limited. That said, an engagement between NBS and the urban water challenges of Asian cities offers good reasons to expand NBS to address conditions of water vulnerability. In this Viewpoint, we take a particular interest in how NBS principles related to natural processes and alternative water supplies might be directed toward mitigating environmental harm in circumstances where urban residents are already reliant on non-networked and ‘natural’ services for water supply. We argue that improving infrastructure for sustainability in such cases requires thinking about how to limit the impacts of infrastructure inequalities on vulnerable residents and providing low-cost innovations that can work to protect and stabilise the non-networked ecological services on which millions of urban residents already depend.

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