Demonstrating Green Growth at Tianjin’s Coastal Economic Area

The wetland park constructed under the project handles stormwater, purifies inflow water, and serves as a habitat for coastal species and a leisure site for citizens. Photo credit: Project Management Office, Harbor Economic Area Administrative Commission.

Investments include water conservation, ecosystem rehabilitation, disaster prevention, and green growth capacity development.


Tianjin Binhai New Area was established to become a center of finance, business, and industry in the northern PRC to usher further economic development. However, economic boom in the Hai River basin and the Bohai Bay coastal areas since the 1990s already resulted in significant water pollution problems and degradation of natural and environmental resources. How to achieve economic development without aggravating the environment became a critical challenge.

A project funded by ADB demonstrated sound environmental and public safety investments, such as water conservation and ecosystem rehabilitation, disaster prevention and emergency response, and enhanced institutional capacities, to improve environmental and economic conditions at the Harbor Economic Area, a functional area of the new center.

Integrating adequate environmental management practices and risk mitigation measures into development activities, including public infrastructure and industrial investments, is crucial for sustained economic development and green growth.

Project information

43054-013: Hai River Estuary Area Pollution Control and Ecosystem Rehabilitation Project in the PRC

Project snapshot

      • Approval date: 13 December 2011
      • Closing date: 23 April 2020
      • Total project cost: $221 million
      • Executing agency: Tianjin Municipal Government through Tianjin Harbor Economic Area Administrative Commission
      • Financing: Asian Development Bank, Government of the PRC and Commercial Bank


The Hai River and 15 other rivers flow toward Bohai Bay, which is bounded by the coastlines of Hebei Province, Tianjin municipality, and Shandong Province.

Tianjin has a total area of 11,760 square kilometers (km2) and a population of 11.6 million. It is located at the lowest reach of the Hai River basin.

The Tianjin Binhai New Area was established in 2010 as an economic zone like Shenzhen and the Shanghai Pudong area. The Harbor Economic Area is a land reclamation site in the tidal-flat portion of Bohai Bay, south of the Hai River estuary. The area accommodates large domestic and international companies, including petrochemical industries, shipyards, offshore oil engineering bases, heavy equipment manufacturing, and technological research and development institutes. It also provides residential areas and corresponding public utilities.


Rapid economic development in the Hai River basin and the Bohai Bay coastal areas had resulted in the degradation and scarcity of natural and environmental resources. Impacts included polluted waterways, scarcity of water resources in the river basin, and deterioration of the Bohai Sea ecosystems.

The Bohai Bay also suffered from frequent and severe storm surges that had caused severe damage to Tianjin and increased the risks of accidental pollution.

Fast development pace has overshadowed the need to integrate adequate environmental management practices and risk mitigation measures into development activities.

Shifting to sustainable development in the Harbor Economic Area, a new coastal industrial hub, became a challenge for the Tianjin municipal government. Aside from moving to cleaner or nonpolluting industries, the local government needed to improve its capacity for green development and incorporate sustainable features into public infrastructures.


In 2011, ADB approved a $100 million loan to demonstrate sound environmental and public safety investments for sustained green growth in the coastal areas of Tianjin. The project built a sewer system and reclaimed water plant for water conservation; eco-efficient wetland for ecosystem rehabilitation; breakwater for storm surge mitigation, taking into accounts climate change impacts; and an environmental monitoring and emergency response center to offer a comprehensive platform for environmental monitoring and emergency management.

The ADB also provided a $1 million technical assistance grant to enhance the capacity of the executing and implementing agencies to pursue green growth. The technical assistance introduced international best practices on harbor and industrial park management, supported the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certification of the government’s construction and development company, and helped establish the said emergency response center.

The project constructed a 15,000-cubic meter per day (m3/day) wastewater treatment plant (WWTP), a 10,000 m3/day reverse osmosis reclaimed water plant, 42 kilometers (km) of sewer pipelines, 21 km of stormwater pipes, and 41 km of reclaimed water pipes. A multi-functional wetland park was designed for advanced sewage treatment, water regulating, biodiversity conservation, and culture services for surrounding areas. The 63-hectare (ha) wetland with treatment capacity from Class 1B to Class 1A was constructed with low impact development feature. The effluent from wastewater treatment plants is purified by the wetland and used as landscape and greening water.

The project constructed a prevention wall (breakwater) to minimize risks and damage caused by storm surges and to ensure safe and efficient working conditions in the Harbor Economic Area. The prevention wall is about 3 km long with a once-in-50-year design standard, taking into consideration climate change impacts. An environmental monitoring and emergency response center was established to deal with pollutants and emergencies arising in the coastal industrial hub. The center holds the first comprehensive environmental monitoring and emergency management platform in Tianjin that integrates information collection and analysis, monitoring and early warning, decision support, dispatching and command, and accident handling and evaluation.

The project consultants provided advisory services and training for implementing institutions in design review, construction and procurement management, quality management, information management, and project monitoring and reporting.  Manuals on low-pressure sewer system and low-impact development approaches were produced for application in the Harbor Economic Area.

The technical assistance helped the Harbor Industrial Park Construction and Development Company (HIPCDC) obtain ISO certifications on quality management and environmental management system; trained government officials on best practices in managing industrial parks and harbors; organized quantitative risk assessment and emergency response management workshops, reviewed emergency response plans of chemical and petrochemical plants, and conducted drills; and assisted in the concept design of the environmental monitoring and emergency response center.


The improved wastewater treatment facilities reduced pollutant emissions. Around 59% of the treated wastewater from the treatment plants in the Harbor Economic Area is recycled for reuse; and about 37% of water supply in the Tianjin Binhai New Area come from nontraditional sources, such as reclaimed water and desalinated water, to overcome water scarcity.

The wetland park serves as a habitat for coastal species and a leisure site for citizens. Wild birds increased from 29 species in 2015 to 113 species in 2017. The wetland park also received more than 100,000 visitors as a relaxation place and an environmental education base for residents in the neighboring areas. The water quality is improved after flowing through the wetland.

The breakwater lowered the risk of storm surge losses, increased the capacity and efficiency of cargo berth, improved the safety of shipping and dock loading, and minimized maintenance dredging at docks through reduced back silting.

The environmental monitoring and emergency response center enhanced the government’s ability to respond promptly to various production and environmental pollution accidents and regulate the production and discharge behavior of enterprises in the Harbor Economic Area. The integrated analysis, proactive traffic management of hazardous vehicles, monitoring and risk detection, and emergency response plans effectively reduced the risk of accidents. Overall disaster prevention and response plans mitigate risks of the Harbor Economic Area from economic losses, injury, and environmental pollution.

HIPCDC, the government’s construction and development company, obtained ISO certifications for quality management system and environmental management system. Since 2014, the ISO-certified systems were applied to the company’s core business, including land development, municipal infrastructure development, and leasing services for the houses and public facilities in the industrial hub.

Good environmental management practices and risk mitigation measures are also integrated into non-project development activities in the area. Green growth in the Bohai Bay coastal areas of the Tianjin municipality has been gradually sustained. Eco-efficiency and recycling activities, such as the constructed wetland and reclaimed water plant, have been replicated in other coastal areas of Tianjin municipality. In 2019, the Lingang Area (the new name of the Harbor Economic Area after merging with the Tianjin Port Free Trade Zone in December 2017) was recognized as a municipality-level demonstration zone of a recycling economy. In 2020, the Tianjin Port Free Trade Zone, including Lingang Area, was identified as a state-level Green Industrial Park for green and sustainable development.


Reclaiming treated wastewater for reuse can help overcome water scarcity. Constructed wetland can be designed to provide multiple ecological functions beyond wastewater treatment.

A comprehensive environmental monitoring and emergency management mechanism is important for pollution and disaster management of an industrial area with high environmental risks.

Holistic planning, precise design, and accurate implementation are keys for success in eco-efficient and recycling activities. The construction of the wastewater treatment plant and reclaimed water plant should be synchronized with the pace of overall industry and infrastructure development. Although it was planned so, the actual construction of the plants was delayed because of external factors. Otherwise, the financial viability of this project component would be better.

Getting government’s construction and development companies with ISO environmental management certification is also a way to quality and responsible development as this kind of certification institutionalize environmental management capacity through a systematic approach that generates wide impact. These companies are often commissioned by the government for land development and infrastructure construction in the PRC.

Enhanced capacities of institutions and staff are vital for sustaining green growth beyond the project. Knowledge and understanding of best practices widen their vision for green development, ecological and environmental protection, emergency response, and industrial park and port management. New skills and a change in mindset benefit work beyond the project and are considered as an asset to organizations.

Xin Shen

Xin Shen

Senior Project Officer (Natural Resources and Agriculture), East Asia Department, ADB

This blog is reproduced from Development Asia.

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Building Livable Cities in the PRC through Integrated Urbanization

Alleys, sidewalks, and road safety features are an important part of an inclusive city (Photo by Liaoning Provincial Project Management Office).

An integrated, green, and people-centric urban development strategy can help make cities inclusive and sustainable.


Like other provinces in the PRC coping with rapid urbanization, Liaoning is facing the challenges stemming from rural–urban migration, such as poor infrastructure, pollution, unemployment, inadequate public services, and poverty.

Recognizing that current urbanization trends will place excessive pressure on the provincial capital of Shenyang, the Liaoning provincial government saw the need to enhance infrastructure and services in key townships and cities.

A project funded by the ADB supported the province by implementing a sustainable solution to address these challenges through targeted infrastructure improvements in wastewater management, sanitation, heating, and transport services.

Project snapshot

      • Approval date: 25 October 2012
      • Closing date: 29 October 2019
      • Total project cost: $395.35 million 
      • Executing agency: Liaoning Provincial Government
      • Financing: Asian Development Bank, $150 million


Liaoning province is in the northeastern region of the PRC. Its geographical center includes a cluster of cities and historical industrial bases. The urban population is expected to reach 85% of the total provincial population by 2050 from 65% before 2012, largely because of migration from rural areas.

The province has been lagging in economic growth because of the depletion of natural resources, the decline of heavy industries, and the pressures of rapid urbanization. Meeting the increasing demands on urban infrastructure, municipal services, and employment is a critical issue that needs a holistic solution.


Among the challenges faced by many of Liaoning’s cities and towns are poor infrastructure, pollution, the degraded water quality in the Liao River, and a large population of rural migrants and laid-off workers with obsolete skills.

The service breakdowns of old district heating facilities made the lack of heating a grave concern in winter, affecting women who are primarily responsible for housekeeping and caring for the sick and the elderly. Poor road conditions and lack of public transport services restricted people’s mobility for economic opportunities.

In addition to gaps in existing infrastructure, municipal services were often of poor quality or limited—directly affecting the living conditions of residents, particularly those in towns or small cities. This requires substantial effort to enhance the institutional capacities of local governments and municipal service providers if towns are to reach their full development potential.


An ADB-financed project implemented an integrated, green, and people-centric urban development strategy through targeted wastewater management, district heating, and urban transport development in key townships in central Liaoning province.

Promote people-centric infrastructure services and facilities

The project selected key townships and cities around the provincial capital, Shenyang, which has a population of 7.4 million to promote concentrated urbanization through towns and urban clusters development. Shenbei and Benxi are in the core Shenyang metropolitan area; Fuxin, Gaizhou, and Xinmin are along intercity connection belts outside the Shenyang metropolitan area; while Heishan and Huanren are included to strengthen rural links with urban areas.

The project constructed wastewater management systems to address the deterioration of the water quality of the Liao River, one of the seven river basins of the PRC. A wastewater treatment plant was also constructed in Shenbei new district (Xinchengzi Town) with a capacity of 25,000 cubic meters per day, 4.59 kilometers (km) of sewer pipes, and 7.89 km of stormwater pipelines. The treatment plant became operational in June 2019 and is fully utilized by 2021.

The project improved the district heating services of the Fuxin urban area by replacing small boilers and heating stoves in individual households. New primary and secondary heating pipelines totaling 20.76 km were constructed. The 20.9 km secondary heating network and 74.3 km tertiary heating pipes were upgraded. Fifty thermal stations were installed, and one heat exchange station was constructed. The project expanded district heating area by 3.1 million square meters in Fuxin.

The project promoted the development of environmentally sustainable urban infrastructure, which included upgrading and constructing roads, alley, and bridges; improving stormwater pipelines and sewer coverage; installing energy-saving lighting; and expanding public green areas.

Along with the road construction, the project laid out of 105 km of stormwater pipes, 25 km of sewers, and 25 km of water supply pipelines. The integrated approach significantly reduced both the construction costs and implementation period.

The project adopted holistic and inclusive road designs, bus priority lanes, and road safety features, such as traffic-calming measures and separate nonmotorized transport lanes. The roads constructed under the project included not only trunk urban roads and key bridges but also a considerable number of alleys and sidewalks, most of which serve the previously neglected corners in the urban area.

Enhance the capacities of local government officials in urban planning and management

Officials and staff of key government bureaus were trained in various aspects of eco-friendly urban planning, financial management, environmental management, and inclusive urban governance, particularly in the fields of transportation, heating, and sewage treatment.

Locals learned modern technologies to reuse the methane and waste heat from sewage. Intelligent heating control systems were introduced to reduce energy consumption of district central heating facilities.

The project also conducted a training program to promote social inclusion and equitable access to public services and economic opportunities, including jobs, for disadvantaged groups while promoting efficient use of resources and keeping local government finances prudent and sustainable.


Improved urban infrastructure services

The project has contributed to improved sanitation, clean water supply, reliable and clean heating, and enhanced urban road linkages and related facilities in seven key townships and cities in central Liaoning. More than 1.6 million residents, of which 40% were women, benefited from the project. It enhanced the quality of life of the residents and promoted more competitive, green, and inclusive cities.

The improved district heating network have helped dispose individual heating stoves for about 5,079 households or 11,630 people. As a result, women and children have less exposure to pollutants from household heating stoves; fewer domestic chores and less time spent for space heating; and a lower incidence of respiratory diseases related to indoor air pollution.

Improved air and water quality

The operation generated significant environmental benefits in the project areas. The actual days of air quality equal to or above grade II increased to 309 days per year in 2019 from 265 days per year in 2011. The wastewater collection rate increased to 90% from 43% during the same period. The Fuxin district heating component decreased the use of standard coal of 27,771 tons and avoided 69,242 tons of annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from 2019.

Through the urban road subprojects, better road condition and shorter travel times reduced fuel consumption, leading to a decrease of more than 56,760 tons of CO2 emissions per year.

The downstream water quality of the Changhe River (a branch of Liao River) and Qixing Wetland were significantly improved because of enhancements in wastewater and solid waste treatment facilities. Pollutants were reduced by more than 1,616 tons of chemical oxygen demand, 645.4 tons of biochemical oxygen demand, 23.5 tons of total phosphorus, 260.0 tons of total nitrogen, and 168.4 tons of ammoniacal nitrogen per year. The Qixing Wetland, the largest wetland park in urban areas in the country, contributes to biodiversity conservation by supporting a diversity of wetland plants, animals, and waterbirds. The wetland has been turned into a public park for residents to enjoy the green and pleasant scenery.


Implementing an integrated urban development strategy helps promote the efficient development of livable, inclusive, green, and sustainable cities. People-centric principles in project design promote social inclusion and equitable access to urban services. Holistic road designs, road safety features, and bus priority lanes can help make services more inclusive to vulnerable populations, particularly women and the elderly.

Urban development projects are also particularly effective when accompanied by capacity development programs for key government officials to strengthen urban management and service delivery.

Fang Wang

Fang Wang

Senior Project Officer (Financial Management), East Asia Department, ADB

This blog is reproduced from Development Asia.

Health Is Made at Home, Hospitals Are for Repairs: Building a Healthy and Health Creating Society

Nigel Crisp, a crossbench member of the House of Lords, the UK, and former Chief Executive, National Health Service, will share insights on how people of all walks of life can play to build a healthy and health creating society.


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What Makes New Cities Successful?

Shenzhen, in the People’s Republic of China, was built with powerful support from the private sector.

The right blend of public and private sector support, along with long-term transport strategies and anchor institutions such as schools and hospitals, are some of the basic ingredients needed for a successful new city.

The United Nations estimates that 60% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2030. People tend to flock to long established cities which causes overpopulation in megacities. Today, one in five people worldwide lives in a city with more than 1 million inhabitants and this is growing. One solution to the overpopulation in megacities is to plan and develop new cities. Since 2000, more than 40 countries have built more than 200 new cities.

Strategically located, purpose-built cities are intended to become tomorrow’s trade, finance, logistics, technology, or commercial centers, focusing on long-term economic growth that could challenge existing global networks. Some examples of new city developments include Xiong’an New Area in the People’s Republic of China, designed to become a hub for research, education, and high technology research and development; Sri Lanka’s Colombo Port City, envisioned as a major financial center in the sub-continent; and Sejong, Republic of Korea, which is being built to relocate the central government functions from Seoul.

How can we gauge if a new city will become successful in achieving its primary development objectives? Looking at several city developments, there are several factors for success:

Presence of anchor institutions and transport infrastructure. Basic facilities such as schools, hospitals, and shopping centers should be developed and supplied in time to attract residents. Irvine in Southern California was planned to include a branch of the University of California which made the city grow. Also, transportation channels such as highways and mass transit systems must be available.

Land development can also be coordinated with rail investments. A housing development in Tama, Japan, was planned and built together with the rail line, and this contributed to its growth.

There should be a balance for both the supply of infrastructure and the demand for it. Developers must be cautious about over-building before there is demand and delayed supply of infrastructure and services that could slow down the growth of new cities. For example, the construction of rail transit in Tsukuba lagged in the early years, resulting in time-consuming traffic and relatively weak connection with Tokyo.

Strong central and local government policies. Governance structure and support plays a role in new city growth. New developments rely on support from higher levels of government, often including compulsory land expropriation, the establishment of a specialized development company, and financial support. Stable government support is essential for the success of the new city.

However, higher level government leadership or central government policy could change over the course of the development, which risks the momentum of growth, as in the case of Sejong in the Republic of Korea. Sejong was planned to become the new capital and promote the regional development of other areas of the country. However, a court ruled that the capital must remain in Seoul in response to a complaint filed by the main opposition.

The sustainability of new city growth is always a challenge.

Since then, Sejong has lost its momentum, and the relocation is only half-done. A new city’s access to central government support is a big plus, but strong local institutions are needed for the area to grow its capacity and adapt to the evolving environment. Tsukuba, the city of science near Tokyo, illustrates the importance of local capacity development for sustained growth. The story of Tsukuba’s development suggests two key factors: strong support from the central government, and local strategies that are responsive to the changing circumstances. The former is key to the success for Tsukuba’s development in the first two decades, and the latter is essential for its sustained growth into today.

Enabling environment that allows business sector to flourish. While government planning and public sector expenditure is essential for new city growth, they alone are far from sufficient to grow a prosperous city. The ability of the private sector to participate and function smoothly is also an important dimension of new city development. In the United States, private developers have led the development of many successful suburban cities.

In the People’s Republic of China, Shenzhen’s success significantly benefited from the presence of an active private sector. The ability of the government to attract the private sector to work together has set the tone for new cities to grow. Kunshan, also in the People’s Republic of China, stands out because of the local government’s continuous willingness to innovate its services for the business sector.

The stories of Shenzhen and Kunshan show how local institutions, enabled by high-level governments or local governments, have laid down the foundation for the private sector to prosper. Some typical policies to attract private sector development include tax reductions and exemption for new businesses or high-tech companies.

Natural endowment is important but not a dominating factor. The natural attributes of an area are often perceived as an attraction for residents to move to a new development. Irvine in California, like other cities in Southern California, has been praised for its natural environment. Lake Kasumigaura, the second largest lake in Japan is located near Tsukuba. The presence of natural land or waterscapes is an advantage however, this is rarely a leading factor for a new city’s success. New cities tend to be planned at sub-prime locations because better locations have been already developed. If the other factors are present, natural endowment is not crucial to develop a new city.

The sustainability of new city growth is always a challenge. The economic environment may change, a rival city may thrive and compete, local residents and businesses may leave, and political support may disappear.

To address this, during the inflow of resources at the start of a new city development, leaders should lay out a clear path for local institutions to develop and take the lead. Local government, therefore, must constantly update its strategies and continually pursue an environment for the private sector to flourish.

The process of city development is complicated and dynamic but key factors can guide developers toward a sustainable and vibrant city.

Gloria P. Gerilla-Teknomo

Gloria P. Gerilla-Teknomo

Senior Transport Sector Officer, East Asia Department, ADB

This blog is reproduced from Asian Development Blog.

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How Ecosystem-Based Solutions Can Develop Climate-Resilient Cities

As an ecosystem-based adaptation measure, an old concrete canal is transformed into a natural three-kilometer river, which now merges seamlessly with the park’s greenery. Photo credit: Deltares.

Ecosystem-based adaptation solutions can reduce vulnerability and build resilience of urban areas to climate change.


Redeveloping urban areas through climate adaptation measures can make cities more resilient to the hazards of extreme weather and better cope with water surplus or shortage, heat stress, and land subsidence. Moreover, implementing such measures can result in co-benefits for public health, biodiversity and social well-being.

Cities are designed according to current or past conditions. Land-use changes because of continuous population growth. Urbanization can lead to reduced infiltration, increased runoff and water demand, and urban heat island effect. This urbanization leads to reduced infiltration, increased runoff and water demand, and urban heat island effect. Climate change can also magnify existing risks and vulnerabilities of urban areas to flooding, drought, and extreme heat.

Soil and vegetation naturally absorb 90% of rainfall through infiltration into the ground and evaporation into the air, while hard city surfaces like asphalt, pavement, and roofs rapidly shed water, creating huge volumes of fast-flowing runoff. Developed areas create over 500% more runoff than natural areas of the same size.

Ecosystem-based (or nature-based) solutions have been developed over the past decades in response to the growing need to improve urban resilience as well as environmental sustainability. Digital tools, such as the Climate Resilient City Tool, are available to help urban planners evaluate climate risks and promote collaboration of stakeholders for ecosystem-based adaptation measures.

What is ecosystem-based adaptation?

Inspired and supported by nature, ecosystem-based adaptation measures are cost-effective solutions that harness ecosystem services to reduce vulnerability and increase the resilience of cities to extreme rainfall, drought and heat–aggravated by climate change. Ecosystem-based adaptation measures follow the basic principles of conservation, sustainable management, and restoration of ecosystems. These include soft and hard engineering measures to develop green or hybrid (green–blue–grey) solutions that integrate plants, water systems, and green infrastructure. They provide environmental, social, and economic co-benefits and help people adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Figure 1: Ecosystem Services of Nature-Based Solutions

NBS = nature-based solution, UHI = urban heat island Source: Imperial College London. Climate-KIC Blue Green Dream.1

Measures that promote ecosystem-based adaptation improve a city’s climate resilience by enhancing infiltration and evapotranspiration,2 and capturing and reusing stormwater. The goal is to restore a city’s capacity to harvest, absorb, infiltrate, purify, store, use, drain, and manage rainwater. They mitigate the water discharge from heavy rainfall, retain and degrade pollutants, reduce the amount of stress on a city’s wastewater treatment facilities, and help maintain the natural water cycle. Examples of these measures include green roofs, porous pavements, raingardens, bioswales, rainwater tanks, smart irrigation, and urban forest. (See the examples of 43 ecosystem-based adaptation measures.)

Environmental, social, and economic co-benefits derived from ecosystem-based adaptation measures include:

  • increased urban resilience by creating additional water storage to conserve water and increase water availability;
  • optimized ecosystem functions and services to improve water quality and air quality, improve microclimates, and control soil erosion and land subsidence;
  • cooler areas, increasing productivity and public health
  • covered walkways that provide shade;
  • reduced noise;
  • CO2-sequestration; and
  • enhanced aesthetic quality of urban spaces.

Apart from improving the city’s livability and creating a healthier and more attractive city, ecosystem-based adaptation activities can further contribute to the sustainable use of energy and urban resources while enhancing the urban ecosystem and biodiversity. Through urban regeneration, they can help revitalize neglected areas and increase land value and government revenues. Recreational spaces that use ecosystem-based adaptation measures improve people’s well-being and create tourism services, that in turn, can create jobs and stimulate local economies.

What is the Climate Resilient City Tool?

Urban climate resilience planning involves multiple participants. Planning, implementation, and maintenance of ecosystem-based adaptation measures require the cooperation of city bureaus and departments, each with the need to adapt their policies, procedures, regulations, and practices.

In order to support cities in climate resilience planning and design, there are science-based tools available for hazard exposure and vulnerability analysis. Some tools present an overview of potential solutions and/or best practices to mitigate the risks. One of these tools is the Climate Resilient City Tool, an information and technology-based urban resilience and adaptation planning support tool that was developed by Deltares to assess climate risks, identify key flood-prone areas, and support collaborative spatial planning of ecosystem-based adaptation measures. The web-based tool can be accessed using a touchscreen device for collaborative design planning or a single personal computer to individually explore adaptation options.

The Climate Resilient City Tool provides an initial quantitative estimate of the resilience capacity improvement, co-benefits, and associated costs of the proposed adaptation measures. This will allow design participants to collaboratively explore alternative choices and come up with an initial concept. The initial design can then be used as input for a more detailed design of the landscape and drainage plan of the project area.

It facilitates dialogue among stakeholders to identify priority areas for climate resilience improvement. Policymakers, government authorities, planners, designers, and practitioners can work together to determine the requirements of the priority areas and set the adaptation targets. It is a user-friendly way to practice collaborative city development planning that allows representatives from various bureaus and organizations to discuss multi-disciplinary concerns, co-create adaptation scenarios, and co-design a conceptual plan of a resilient and attractive blue-green infrastructure for a community. With detailed information provided for 43 ecosystem-based measures, design participants can select specific interventions that can be implemented at the street or block level.

Ecosystem-based Adaptation Measures in an ADB Project

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) supported the preparation of a localized version of the Climate Resilient City Tool for the city of Xiangtan in Hunan Province, People’s Republic of China. Information on the effectiveness and costs of ecosystem-based adaptation measures have been adjusted for local conditions.

Xiangtan is an old industrial city undergoing rapid urbanization and industrial transformation. Some areas have been experienced flooding because of increased rainfall and drainage capacity has been exceeded. The Climate Resilient City Tool, developed in English and Chinese, was used in the project preparation of the urban climate resilience component of the Xiangtan Low Carbon Transformation Sector Development Program. A flood hazard map was generated for Xiangtan based on an analysis of local conditions.

Climate resilience experts trained local government authorities and other stakeholders on urban hazards and challenges, urban climate resilience, adaptation planning, and nature-based solutions, including ecosystem-based adaptation measures. In the design workshop, participants used the Climate Resilient City Tool to prepare a concept design for two project areas.

A new hospital to be constructed in Xiangtan is located in a critical flood-prone zone and requires more than 5,000 cubic meters of retention, detention, and storage capacity for pluvial flood protection. The concept design considered several ecosystem-based adaptation measures, including rainwater gardens, systems for rainwater harvesting, catch pits, permeable pavement, urban wetlands, and green roofs. These measures aim to create large peak storage volumes for drought resistance and flood protection, as well as improve runoff water quality and enhance green spaces.

Initiatives to be implemented on and along one of the main roads involve converting trees to tree pits, creating rain gardens for treating stormwater from the side pathways, modifying or relocating catch pits to new rain garden areas, creating porous pavement for cycle lanes and pedestrian walkways, and developing subsurface infiltration for water storage under cycle lanes and pedestrian walkways. These will improve infiltration, reduce runoff pollution, decrease drainage and peak volumes of stormwater, and improve the landscape and street aesthetics. These will help strengthen biodiversity and support Xiangtan’s transition into a “sponge city.”3


Ecosystem-based adaptation measures are among the most effective ways of advancing climate resilience by integrating the use of biodiversity and ecosystem services while maximizing co-benefits.

Collaborative city development planning is needed to discuss multi-disciplinary concerns and co-create conceptual plans for a resilient and attractive city.

Applications of the Climate Resilient City Tool in various settings and contexts in several cities have illustrated the added value of the toolbox in bringing policy and practice together with the help of science for a more water-robust and climate-resilient urban environment.

1 Bozovic, R., C. Maksimovic, A. Mijic, M. Van Reeuwijk, K. Smith, and I. Suter. 2017. Blue Green Solutions, A Systems Approach to Sustainable, Resilient and Cost-Efficient Urban Development. Imperial College London. Blue Green Dream project, Climate-KIC, European Institute for Innovation and Technology.
2 Evapotranspiration is the process by which water is transferred from the subsurface to the atmosphere by evaporation from the soil and other surfaces and by transpiration from plants. (ADB. Characterizing Water Supply and Demand in Cambodia’s River Basins)
3 The Sponge Cities Initiative in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) focuses on using “green infrastructure” (e.g. permeable pavements, green roofs, parks and, tree planting, and constructed or natural wetlands) in its flood and drought-prone cities to absorb and naturally filter and store rainwater before releasing it into drainage facilities and into the river.
Na Won Kim

Na Won Kim

Senior Urban Development Specialist, South Asia Department, ADB

 Frans van de Ven

Frans van de Ven

Team Leader, Urban Land & Water Management, Deltares

 Reinder Brolsma

Reinder Brolsma

Urban Water Management Specialist, Deltares

This blog is reproduced from Development Asia.

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