Revitalising urban slums

June 20, 2017

Cutting-edge water designs created for developed cities can futureproof vulnerable and degraded environments in developing countries.

A plan to revitalise 24 urban slums in two cities has received a $38 million grant from the Wellcome Trust and Asian Development Bank. An international research consortium, led by Monash University, will undertake a five-year research project drawing on previous water sensitive city research programs in Australia, China, Singapore and Israel.

Cities today are facing many challenges related to liveability and water security, such as water scarcity due to a changing climate, increasing density – making societies more vulnerable to heat, flood conditions and waterway pollution – and water-related energy usage and transport.

“A water sensitive city is basically reflecting on the notion of how we can better manage water within a city that is susceptible to all those challenges,” says Professor Tony Wong, CEO of the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities (CRCWSC), which is a member of the consortium.

Within a water sensitive city, the technology and urban landscape designs aim to make the city more resilient to droughts, floods and other climatic factors – through the use of green technology embedded in buildings and public spaces, and heat mitigation.

Such cities increase water security by improving inhabitants’ access to rainwater and recycled wastewater. Through a co-design process and by empowering members of the community with knowledge to foster their cities, they evolve towards cities consisting of informed, water sensitive communities.

The landscape designs and green technology required vary: the focus in a first-world city, such as Melbourne, is about liveability, water security, equality and heat mitigation. Developing-world cities often have acute problems related to public health, such as faecal contamination of land and waterways due to poor or non-existent sewerage services, and after floods.

CRCWSC’s focus has previously been on embedding green technology and landscape design as part of retrofitting developed cities. This has delivered the proof-of-concept of how water sensitive urban design and green technology can create both amenities and attractions.

“That proof-of-concept is now being adapted to look at how we would fundamentally improve the environmental quality of developing countries,” says Wong.

The project will focus on adopting a water sensitive approach to the revitalisation of 12 slums in Makassar, Indonesia, and another 12 in Suva, Fiji; two cities of different densities and different social and regulatory considerations.

“We are looking at a Pacific Island city and an Asian city to demonstrate how the concept of water sensitivity would be adapted to those social institutional conditions, while still able to embed good design and good technology into the solution,” Wong says.

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– Laura Boness

Read more CRC discovery in KnowHow 2017

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