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Scaling up Nature-based Solutions in an urban context

April 2021

Geoff Wilson is a Senior Water Resources Specialist with the Asian Development Bank (ADB). In this video he speaks about his experience of implementing Nature-based Solutions over his 30-year career.


Geoff is currently managing an Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF) funded Knowledge Support Technical Assistance project on Strengthening Integrated Flood Risk Management. “NbS is a big part of my work on that project” said Geoff, “in many cases they provide the same function as an engineered solution, and they also make us feel better about our environment… Who wants to live in a city full of concrete?”

Geoff says that NbS hold three forms of value in an urban context: (i) it offers technical value, that is to say they are often effective at delivering the same level of service as hard infrastructure at a cheaper price, and can therefore simply replacing hard engineering structure; (ii) it provides visual amenity value: they make cities nicer places to live, and more visually appealing; and (iii) it holds ecological value, increasing biodiversity and the natural environment.

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Geoff also explains that despite providing a range of benefits – a wetland regeneration project protects against storm surges, for example, may also deliver a host of co-benefits such as livelihood opportunities, carbon storage, and tourism – they are often overlooked in favour of traditional infrastructure approaches. “The wellbeing benefits provided by NBS can be difficult to quantify” explains Geoff adding “but there is some interesting work underway to address this, and the evidence is starting to come in showing significant economic, health, and wellbeing benefits.”

Some cities find implementing NbS simpler than others. “NbS almost always requires more land”, says Geoff. So, for cities where there are serious land constraints, the options for NbS may be limited. However, as Geoff points out “if Hong Kong can do it, anywhere can!”

Geoff acknowledges that there are some challenges to overcome to facilitate the wide-spread adoption of NbS in cities, noting a lack of universally adopted design standards and methodologies, securing maintenance funding, and difficulties in securing private sector investment. However, he is optimistic that these challenges will be overcome in time, and that NbS will play a central role in the cities of the future.

“As urban populations in Asia become more prosperous, they will no longer accept concrete cities and covered water courses,” Geoff said. “It is the people that will drive the uptake of NbS.”

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