Policy Brief.2024

Urban river governance: A pathway for cities to achieve climate goals

Panchali Saikia (Water Resources)
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Panchali Saikia
Programme Manager (on leave),
Water and Sanitation
Malin Gustafsson (Swedish Water House)
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Malin Lundberg Ingemarsson, PhD
Programme Manager,
Swedish Water House

Water resilience has become a key agenda for cities today, as most natural and climate-change induced disasters usually manifest through water, such as floods, storms, water-borne disease outbreaks, and droughts. Amid the climate change impacts, it is necessary that cities prioritize on improving the governance of its freshwater systems, including its rivers.

Beautiful cityscape in Singapore. Modern buildings among trees
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River-related disasters like floods, are increasingly becoming a threat for many cities, often linked to extreme events such as heavy rains, which can be linked to climate change. It is estimated that nearly 80 per cent of the world’s population is exposed to water scarcity because of large-scale transformations of water systems like rivers, transformation that may involve land cover change, urbanisation, industrialisation, deforestation, inefficient agricultural practices, overgrazing, hydrologic infrastructure, etc . The lack of planning and rapid urban development through infrastructural investments have forced many rivers into artificial structures, removed vegetation, drained wetlands, and dredged rivers, resulting in destroying habitat and river ecosystems.

This brief is based on the research study conducted under the UNDP-SIWI Water Governance Facility on Urban River Governance. This brief draw inspiration from the published works on Urban River Governance chapter in eds. Shinde, Victor R., Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, Uday Bhonde, and Hitesh Vaidya, 2023, Managing Urban Rivers: From Planning to Practice, and SIWI’s publication on ‘Unpacking freshwater’s role in climate change mitigation’

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