Future Urban Deltas

“50% of the world’s aquifers are beyond tipping point… we should be more scared.” Henk Ovink began the workshop with this uncompromising introduction to the problem.

The workshop focused on the challenges posed by rapid urbanisation in delta areas. The various participants (ranging from geophysical experts to design researchers) indicated a multiplicity of problems: population density in urban delta’s, land subsidence and associated loss of ecosystem services, decreasing availability of fresh water, the vulnerable location of the urban poor in this context, as well as the magnifying force of a changing climate on all of these. 

As Ovink poignantly noted, “we don’t need new disasters to get to more urgency”. Rather, what is required is a more refined, transdisciplinary understanding of the complexity of the issues mentioned above. A delicate balance was struck, then, between academic expertise on particular problems and the [exploration] of practical, design-based tools for putting solutions in place. Central to this discussion were two key relationships: the science-policy interface, and stakeholder engagement.

What is the imagined future? How can we overcome current challenges to reach this future?
The complexity of the challenges posed by future urban deltas requires a radically transdisciplinary approach. The imagined future, then, is one which includes better engagement with urban delta stakeholders, a stronger relationship between science and policym and new forms of integrated planning. For this, first a rethink of urban development and political practice in delta regions is necessary.