(May 2011) Preparing for heavy rain: Barriers and opportunities for the integration of adaptation measures in urban planning

Preparing for heavy rain: Barriers and opportunities for the integration of adaptation measures in urban planning image

Changes in land use have increased the risk of floods in urban areas. Urbanization, road construction and deforestation have hardened the urban design creating impermeable surfaces. With most Western urban regions facing increased precipitation due to climate change, actors should address the consequences by integrating adaptation measures in planning processes that focus on the (re)development of existing and new urban areas.

In the planning process, urban flooding requires attention as these floods due to a lack of drainage in an urban area can lead to great disturbance in daily life, such as societal disruption, nuisance, material damage and health issues. The expectations are that the costs for the implementation of adaptation measures are currently lower than the future costs due to flood damage. Flood damage can be circumvented by adapting the built environment. Measures such as green roofs, permeable surfaces, water storage facilities, larger sewer capacity, expansion of the green infrastructure or location choice in case of new urban areas, can decrease the risk for flooding.

Despite that knowledge on impacts, consequences, measures and strategies is available; the integration of adaptation measures in planning processes is not yet evident. The integration of these measures is not straightforward due to uncertainties on rate and magnitude, time-span, ambiguity on benefits and moreover, conflicting interests of actors involved (such as project developers). Their interests (e.g. profit, risk management) often conflict with interests regarding adaptation (e.g. investments in water storage). Despite the barriers, actors need to (re)prioritize their interests and include adaptation as a valid interest in the planning process.

The aim of my PhD research is to gain insights in the barriers and opportunities that influence the integration of adaptation measures for urban flooding in planning processes by means of frame- and stakeholder analysis. The object of study are planning processes that focus on the (re)development of existing and new urban areas. Key actors in the planning process are interviewed about their interests and actions, and on the extent to which they have experienced barriers and opportunities when integrating adaptation measures. By comparing cases that involve different planning goals (redevelopment versus new urban areas) and achieved different levels of integration, the research might find strategic solutions for promoting the integration of adaptation measures for urban flooding.