Urban Resilience in a nutshell

Photo: Wikimedia

The 7th World Urban Forum, the two-yearly conference organized by the UN Habitat, held in Medellín (Columbia) has ended last week. This time, the theme was “Urban Equity in Development – Cities for Life”. When I saw the theme for the first time, I could not think of something special in it. But when I read the conclusions of the discussions held during the conference, I noticed one prominent topic which I believe also draws attention of many people: Urban Resilience.

For some people, it may be something new. But this concept actually emerged a decade ago with a starting point:how can we make our cities more resilient?.  The concept became more and more important as the effects of climate change are more and more threatening. The 2003 Europe heat wave, the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, the 2005 Hurricane Katrina and the recent Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines are only a few examples. The death toll and damages costing of these disasters were massive. Something has to be done. A sustainable system must be created to make cities be able to survive under extreme circumstances. And investing today to build resilient cities would certainly be much cheaper than rebuilding the cities in the disaster aftermath.

A nice example is how the Malaysian government responded with the development of the Klang River Basin Flood Mitigation Project when the urbanization of Kuala Lumpur has penetrated the river area. In 2001, the Storm water Management and Road Tunnel (SMART) was developed to mitigate flooding in the city centre. It is a mixed-use tunnel which is used to divert and store the storm water caused by heavy rains. When the tunnel is empty of water, it is used as a motorway. 

Another example is a mind-set change of the US government from the traditional concept of rebuilding to the resiliency concept in the aftermath of the 2012 Hurricane Sandy, described in this article.

Last but not least, one may be questioning why this is so important in urban area and why we have never heard about Rural Resilience. The answer is very simple. A large concentration of people, public facilities and infrastructures are situated in urban areas which make them more vulnerable to natural hazards compared to rural areas. Moreover, half of the world´s population live in urban areas and many believe that it will reach 70% by 2050. Can we see the urgency of urban resilience now? Let me know what you think by leaving your comment here below.

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