On 15 March 2015, UNU-IAS and UNESCO Institute for Water Education (UNESCO-IHE) co-organized a public forum on Integrated Water Cycle Management for Disaster Risk Reduction during the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan.
With increasing urban flood risk brought about by urbanization and climate change, sustainable approaches to urban water management are imperative to disaster risk reduction. This symposium highlighted various water cycle management experiences from different countries, and discussed the opportunities and challenges in developing future strategies.
In his opening remarks, UNU-IAS Director Dr. Kazuhiko Takemoto emphasized the importance of integrated water management to the sustainability of the earth system, and called for incorporation of sustainability concerns into discussions on water management – one of the focus areas of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Dr. Srikantha Herath (UNU-IAS) echoed Dr. Takemoto’s remarks, adding how green infrastructures can reduce changes in the water cycle and contribute to long term stability of the earth system. He also stressed the need for community participation, and explained that combined operation of centralized and decentralized systems can help address sustainability and water cycle stability.
The value of local initiatives was further highlighted by Prof. Katumi Musiake (The University of Tokyo) who in his keynote speech reflected on the Japanese history of developing water cycle management policies for urban river basins, and explored their effectivesss as well as challenges for future policies. Prof. Assela Pathirana (UNESCO-IHE) presented on the concept of water sensitive cities, and explored water disaster risk management’s integral part in urban planning and design.
The event also featured several case studies and best practices in urban water management presented by experts and academics, including rainwater storage, utilization of green roofs, and ecosystem-based flood risk control.
A panel discussion concluded the event, giving young researchers from the UNU-IAS postgraduate programme an opportunity to share the results of their field exercise on urban flooding in Tokyo. The students proposed solutions such as creating urban green space, as well as actions that individual households can take. Concepts such as urban greening, benefit-generating incentives, social media communication and web tool applications were also discussed. The session came to a close with recommendations by the panelists who encouraged further collaboration between UNU-IAS and UNESCO-IHE, especially in the field of water management.