Abendblatt on our flood expert Sebastiaan van Herk and Hamburg’s multifunctional flood protection

Our very own flood expert Dr. Sebastiaan van Herk was featured in the Hamburg Abendblatt alongside State Councilor of the Department of Environmental and Energy, Michael Pollmann. Sebastiaan praised the city for its impressive efforts in water management and flood protection.

The interview took place during the two-day BEGIN partner meeting, where members from the project’s 10 participating cities and social innovation scientists, joined to discuss blue-green infrastructure (BGI) for flood management in their cities.

For years Sebastiaan, working for the UN-ISDR and IHE-Delft, has advised countries on tackling flood problems, climate change and driving innovative participation. He also contributed to the special issue U.S. Infrastructure: Challenges and Opportunities published in the peer-reviewed international journal Public Works Management & Policy on future-proofing flood risk management.

One of his main messages, highlighted by the German newspaper, is that flood protection can be practical and multifunctional. It doesn’t just have to protect us from excessive water, it can bring together varying stakeholders and provide multiple benefits for all.

Instead of a simple dyke, the LSGB – The Agency of roads, bridges and waters in Hamburg, built a walk-in promenade where citizens can enjoy festivals throughout the year.

Similarly, urban water management can improve the overall quality of life of citizens. Property value increases and people can enjoy more time outdoors. Actually, CIRIA (Construction Industry Research and Information Centre) used figures from the UK National Health Service to create a tool to measure benefits of SuDs (sustainable drainage systems). These benefits included citizens wanting to walk and cycle more in their city. In turn, this decreased health costs.

In fact, during the BEGIN partner meeting last week, an engineer from the LSBG drastically changed plans to install traditional drains and pipes for water management, as a result of advice from Sebastiaan and fellow BEGIN partners to green his plan. Instead of the initial idea, he decided to incorporate more BGI – specifically rain gardens – around the city of Hamburg.

We can make our living environment much more enjoyable and attractive by planting highly absorbent trees and plants, soaking up the water and turning the city into a sponge. This is a reliable and natural way of making heavy rainfall less severe.

Many cities have turned their backs on water for decades. It is both a challenge and an opportunity to rethink flood management: we can make our cities functional, safe and beautiful. We at Bax & Company have been pushing for a new approach to traditional flood management, whilst incorporating climate adaptation.

For example, the Building with Nature (BWN) project demonstrated BwN solutions that utilise natural processes to deliver flood risk and coastal erosion management, all while strengthening ecosystem services: enhancing nature and delivering economic & social benefits.

Most flood protection infrastructure is ageing, and needs renovation, adaptation, and maintenance. Therefore, in FAIR (Flood infrastructure Asset management & Investment in Renovation, adaptation & maintenance), we supported the creation of an adaptive investment approach to save millions in the flood infrastructure adaptation and maintenance.

We are also facilitating the formation of thematic groups, for The Global Centre of Excellence on Climate Adaptation, based on the global demands and specific stakeholder needs for climate adaptation efforts. GCECA was launched last year at COP 23, in Bonn, Germany.

Find out more on our Climate & Environment section.

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Adaptation Futures 2018