As flooding increases, these cities are designed to work with

Cities’ relationship with water is a fragile balance. Too little leads to parched landscapes and water shortages; too much can cause deadly flooding, washing away homes, lives and livelihoods.

Last year severe flooding caused devastation around the world, including in Nigeria, Pakistan and Australia. And it’s predicted to get worse. Parts of Asia’s largest cities are projected to be underwater by the end of the century. US coasts are expected to see 10 to 12 inches of sea level rise by 2050.

To protect themselves, cities have tended to focus on trying to keep water out, often turning to concrete: Building up walls, dams and other “gray infrastructure.”

“This approach works well when it is possible to predict the extent and volumes of flooding events, but has serious limitations in the current climate unpredictability,” Elisa Palazzo, senior lecturer at UNSW Sydney’s School of Built Environment, told CNN.

As the climate crisis continues to threaten cities and reshape coastlines, it’s prompted some to try a different way. These vulnerable urban areas are looking to work with, rather than against, water by incorporating it into the fabric of the city — soaking it up when there’s too much; retaining it when there’s too little.

Whether these efforts can scale up quickly enough to meet the enormity of the climate challenge cities face is not yet clear. But they show the possibilities when cities stop seeing water only as a threat to be controlled by concrete.

Here’s how five cities are trying to reclaim their relationship with water.

Bangkok, Thailand: ‘Monkey cheek’ parks

Bangkok — constructed on the floodplains of the Chao Phraya River — is incredibly vulnerable to flooding. In 2011, devastating floods inundated the city, killing hundreds of people.

To add to the pressure, as the water levels in the Gulf of Thailand rise, the city of nearly 11 million people, which sits at about 1.5 meters above sea level, is sinking due to growing urbanization.

Thai architect Kotchakorn Voraakhom, who founded the landscape architecture …


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