Shoring Global Minds to Protect Our Urban Coastal Cities
The inaugural edition of the Singapore International Water Week (SIWW) Webinar Series – the Urban Coastal Resilience webinar, co-organised with partner Arcadis on 6 July was a pivotal point in SIWW’s history as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted plans for the SIWW 2020 show.
Despite this, more than 600 participants joined the inaugural webinar series from 35 countries/regions around the world. The event also had the Ambassador of the Netherlands to Singapore and Brunei, Her Excellency Margriet Vonno grace the webinar with her opening remarks. Other highlights include meaningful insights from a series of interactive activities conducted during the webinar such as the word cloud and polls. All of which helped provide a global perspective from the ground on the topic at hand and were later further discussed by the panel of experts and leaders.
The theme ‘Urban Coastal Resilience’ is a reflection of the urgent need to bank on the world’s best minds to work together in order to protect coastal cities and tackle inland flooding from sea-level rise. The webinar discussion was moderated by Tim Risbridger, Head of Singapore, Arcadis with Host, Ryan Yuen, Managing Director, Singapore International Water Week and Deputy Director, Industry and Technology Collaboration, PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency, with presenters Piet Dircke, Global Solution Leader, Resilience & Water Management, Arcadis and Laura Vonhögen-Peeters, Associate Director, Singapore Operations, Deltares and panelists Roelof Kruize, CEO, Waternet Amsterdam, Hazel Khoo, Director, Coastal Protection, PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency and Edgar Westerhof, Flood, Risk & Resilience Director, Arcadis, North America.
First row from left: Tim Risbridger, Ryan Yuen, Edgar Westerhof
Second row from left: Hazel Khoo, Roelof Kruize, Laura Vonhögen-Peeters
Third row: Piet Dircke
THE ECONOMIC AND COMMUNITY PERSPECTIVE
In framing the issue, Piet shared perspectives on critical enablers to address urban coastal protection and climate resilience issues, such as urban planning, systems thinking, multi-disciplinary integration and emphasised stakeholder engagement with the community in the design. He also gave examples of how the Dutch used innovative solutions to deal with its low-lying areas of land through multi-functional coastal protection methods by integrating flood protection infrastructure through retrofitting, building mixed used urban waterfronts that optimise the use of urban space, connecting communities and at the same time integrating economic functionalities through creating revenue streams.
Piet also talked about Arcadis’ Bankable Resilience Tool that can help cities and developers evaluate the distribution of different costs and benefits in urban resilience development. The bankable resilience tool highlights true benefits of resilience both monetary and non-monetary such as the potential increase in land value, social and eco-system benefits and how it can open opportunities for dialogue among stakeholders.
THE TECHNICAL AND ECO-SYSTEMS PERSPECTIVE
“[Do not] wait for disaster to happen, we should not wait for climate change to happen, we should start working on it now. We should acknowledge its uncertainties and its complexity and really start connecting the short and long term plans for implementing what can be done now with no regrets and adjusting along the way,” said Laura.
She shared about how it is important to balance natural systems, ecosystems, shocks and stresses, climate change issues and gave an overview of how harnessing adaptive tools and modelling capabilities is a good start to determine the risks, opportunities and identify relationships in vulnerable areas. She further advocated the implementation of nature-based and blue-green solutions and the need to make strategic choices that are flexible for the long term
A TALE OF THREE COASTAL CITIES –NEW YORK, SINGAPORE AND THE NETHERLANDS
During the panellist’s discussion, Roelof highlighted that the Amsterdam Rain Roof project, started in 2013, was a huge success and brought about great public awareness as the Netherlands is five to seven metres below sea level, yet very well protected. Now… a rain of 60mm an hour doesn’t cause any trouble at all anymore,” he added.
On the case study from New York, Edgar said: “[Eight years post-Sandy],… the hurricane was a tremendous wake-up call not just for New York, but the entire Sandy effect in New Jersey and Connecticut and all along the North East Coast caused massive devastation.” He added that the city went through a tremendous planning exercise to understand sea-level rise, conducted extensive modelling of storms, future scenarios and overlaying risks with the existing landscape to understand the vulnerabilities that severely impacts essential services.
In Singapore, PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency had just been charged since April 2020 to take on the role as the National Coastal Protection Agency to coordinate and drive coastal protection initiatives at the national level. “The good thing is that Singapore does not need to learn the hard way, we have field experts and fore-runners in other coastal cities and low-lying countries to learn from, like New York city and the Netherlands,” Hazel said.
Notwithstanding, Hazel also recognised that Singapore cannot do this alone. “We will definitely need a larger pool of urban planners, engineers, consultants, contractors, scientists… providing us with ideas and solutions for this complex yet exciting endeavour,” she added. She noted that Singapore will continue to capitalise and invest in machine learning, artificial intelligence and video analytics to be well positioned to adopt and apply innovative technologies to optimise planning, operations and intelligent application.
WATCH THE FULL WEBINAR
To catch the full stories and conversation, watch the webinar here.
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About the Singapore International Water Week (SIWW) Webinar Series
The SIWW Webinar Series marks the start of a year-long series of webinars that SIWW will be curating with our partners. The second series of the SIWW Webinar on Resource Resilience: Moving from Linear to Circular Resource Management took place on 7 July 2020.
The next edition of the Singapore International Water Week show will be held in Singapore, from 20 to 24 June, 2021. Save the Date!