Water Adaptation Community holds webinar on the benefits and challenges of large-scale Nature-based Solutions to Accelerate Adaptation

Experts and government officials from around the world recently gathered to exchange knowledge and explore how nature can help us build resilience and adapt to our changing climate.

F rom restoring urban wetlands that reduce flooding in Kigali, Rwanda, to controlled flooding aimed at improving agricultural production in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, Nature-based Solutions (NbS) can be tailored to different environments and have multiple benefits that stretch far beyond climate mitigation and disaster risk reduction and include improved health and water quality, job creation and biodiversity conservation.

“Nature, which underpins our wellbeing on so many levels, can help us fight climate change and protect us from its worst effects. It is the key to building healthier, wealthier and more resilient economies,” said Prof. Dr. Patrick Verkooijen, CEO of the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA), to launch the Water Adaptation Community’s webinar “Accelerating Adaptation through Large-Scale Nature-based Solutions” on 7th October.

“Nature-based Solutions bring multiple benefits too. In the right place, a woodland can store carbon, reduce flood risk, provide a habitat for plants and animals and also, opportunities for recreation,” he added.

The experts and government officials from around the world who participated in the webinar, organized jointly by GCA and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), echoed Verkooijen, touting the benefits of large-scale NbS by sharing case studies of successful NbS projects in different regions and addressing the main challenges to their implementation.

Senior Secretary of the Ministry of Water Resources of Bangladesh, Kabir Bin Anwar, shared some of the NbS that Bangladesh, a disaster-prone delta country exposed to flooding, monsoons and tropical cyclones, has implemented. These include creating mangrove forests on coastal areas and the country’s interior, planting saplings, grass and firewood trees, and reclaiming land from coastal areas and inland river islands.

Dr. Bregje van Wesenbeeck, an expert on NbS from the Netherlands-based water research institute Deltares, showcased three successful large-scale NbS projects implemented in Africa:

  • In Kigali, Rwanda, wetlands were rehabilitated to reduce urban flooding.
  • Lukanga Swamp in Zambia was restored to act as a sponge, storing water in wet periods and releasing it in dry periods. Lukanga is a hydropower source and provides drinking and irrigation water. It also contributes to flood regulation and carbon dioxide capture and storage.
  • Kenya’s coastal mangroves host important ecosystems and provide coastal protection that includes reducing wave heights.

“Nature-based Solutions can actually be applied in several environments. It can be applied from drylands, to riverine environments, to coastal environments and also in cities. In all these environments we can actually work with nature in a better way than we have been doing in the past, by integrating nature in development plans and in infrastructure development,” said van Wesenbeeck.

Dr. Masood Arshad, Senior Manager of WWF Pakistan presented the project Recharge Pakistan, a collaboration between the Pakistani government and WWF Pakistan to build the country’s climate resilience, water and food security and sustainable livelihoods by 2050 through cost-effective, ecosystem-based adaptation.

Pakistan’s lifeline, the Indus River, is experiencing deadly floods and droughts with greater intensity as a result of climate change, explained Arshad, citing the catastrophic 2010 flood that affected 20 million people and cost 2,000 lives as an example.

“Our history shows that we have always relied on costly hard-infrastructure flood and water management measures with limited or no efficacy and we have always considered infrastructure the only viable solution to the problem until now,” he Arshad.

Recharge Pakistan aims to increase water storage and recharge through wetlands, floodplains and hill-torrents management, reducing flood risk in the Indus Basin and protecting vulnerable ecosystems. It will also promote community-based natural resource management and livelihoods.

Water Management Specialist Karel Heijnert, from Royal Haskoning DHV, explained how a project led by several organizations for WWF International the Mekong Delta, one of Asia’s most productive agricultural areas, will assess how NbS approaches can be applied to increase the delta’s sustainability in Vietnam with the goal of scaling them to the entire delta and potentially other regions.

The project has two focus areas in Vietnam: a riverine setting and a coastal scenario. In Dong Thap province, experts will assess the efficacy of combatting extreme floods in a riverine area through controlled flooding to enhance agricultural production and sustainable livelihoods. On the Ca Mau Peninsula, the goal is to prevent erosion and practice sustainable coastal management for mangrove regeneration, pollution reduction and increased economic opportunities.

However, the road to large-scale NbS implementation is paved with challenges. One of these is obtaining financing for NbS projects, and for this reason, the webinar included a presentation by City Planner and Economist Anirudh Rajasheka from Pegasys, a South Africa based public sector advisory firm.

Rajasheka gave a presentation about the process of financing NbS solutions focusing on projects to mitigate and adapt to flooding and drought in three countries: Rwanda, Kenya and Zambia.

“Financing any project comes down to understanding how much money can be raised based on anticipated, future flows of income…Like a mortgage on a house, any upfront financing needs to be paid for with future money earned, which requires some understanding of the revenue models. In the case of a house, those revenue models are the job that you or your partner have. In the case of NbS it comes down to the form of the benefits that these solutions bring and how they can be monetized,” Rajasheka explained.

During the panel discussion, ASEAN Climate Change Expert Imelda Dada Bacudo debated that financing and expertise are widely available, but she considers lack of coordination the greatest challenge in implementing large-scale NbS.

“NbS is very much a cross-cutting issue across all sectors…Reaching out and cross-coordination in order to implement NbS – this is one of the major challenges that we are facing, across sectors, across silos and across bureaucracies,” she said.

The webinar, moderated by Ede Jorge Ijjasz-Vásquez, Senior Advisor to the GCA, concluded with closing remarks by Stuart Orr, from WWF’s Global Freshwater Practice.

About the Water Adaptation Community

The Water Adaptation Community (WAC) is a multi-actor, interactive platform launched to support collaboration, knowledge exchange and practical action in water climate adaptation and resilience. It works as a broker between solution seekers and solution providers in the water cycle. With a focus on governance, finance and behaviour change, WAC will work through and engage Communities of Practice, such as NGOs, scientists, experts, policy makers and decision-makers in the most pressing adaptation issues. WAC will support upscaling NbS, consolidate and support knowledge brokering and innovation through stories, blogs, webinars and e-learning.

Please register, take part of this action and contribute with cases and discussion:
Communities of Practice | Water Adaptation Community (adaptationexchange.org)

Tune into WAC’s next webinar on Water and Spirituality for Climate Adaptation on 19th October at 13:00 CEST.

For more information about WAC or its activities, click here or contact GCA’s WAC Facilitator, Ase Johannessen, at wac@gca.org.

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