1 April 2023

Vision Building process for a water sensitive Sam Neua/Laos initiated

As outcome of the Base Line Assessment and its strategic recommendation the local and provincial government in Sam Neua requested to start a process to apply the PolyUrbanWaters approach in two villages that are exposed to rapid transformation towards an urban area. Strong investments in residential homes are observed barely following urban planing guidelines. The interest of government agencies is to ensure a proactive planing and its implementation that ensures

  •  a multi-functional use of the areas (residential and commercial uses, public spaces, community facilities, etc.),
  • a strong resilience against increasingly emerging flood events and mud slides and
  • an effective provision of water related public services.

With support of the PolyUrbanWaters team, representatives of government agencies and village leaders identified existing and upcoming vulnerabilities of the areas. Out of this analysis, potential fields of interventions have been identified such as protection of green areas that may serve as water buffer zones, areas that may be developed as green public spaces, integrated approaches for strom water management, establishment of zones not suitable for construction because of related risks, establishment of zones for protection of fresh water resources.

Identification of  potential fields of watersensitive interventions

  • Rapid deforestation and land use change of paddy fields result during rainy session into rapid drainage of stormwater threatening not only families living and the narrow valley but the whole city.   Protection of upstream strategic green areas, the establishment of water retention bassins and the relocation of residents to less vulnerable zones have been envisaged. (mpg-movie)
  • Water pollution: Rapid urbanisation without adaquate waste water management infrastructure (today observed in city/town center) may be observed in near future in the villages and extension areas too. (mpg-movie)
  • Assessing water erosion induced risks for settlements of poorer sections of urban population. The high risk exposure of the settlements is evident. Relocation of residents is urgent to avoid impacts on lifes and assets. (mpg-movie)
  • Assessing needs for proactive development of water related infrastructure: Curently, in new extension areas infrastructure development follows construction activites. This practice lead to significant gaps of water related basic needs services. It is envisaged with the elaboration and implementation of detailed urban planing guidelines, these shortcomings of water infrastructure development can effectively be addressed.

23 March 2023

International Symposium Siem Reap – Evaluating crucial project results and elaborating road map ahead towards water sensitive partner cities

From 14 to 17 March 2023, the PolyUrbanWaters – Symposium was held in Siem Reap/Cambodia.

It brought together the research network with more than 50 representatives of partners from Cambodia, Germany, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. Siem Reap was chosen as the venue for the symposium because the government has made considerable efforts in urban development in recent years and the relevant experience could be brought into the discussions at the symposium.

Key outcomes of the symposium were:

1) The partner cities Sam Neua/Laos and Sleman/Indonesia formulated first strategic steps for a water-sensitive transformation of their urban areas.

2) For Kratié/Cambodia, the approach for sustainable management of the peri-urban wetlands was adopted by the local government as central for a climate change. adaptation and economic development strategy of the city

3) Visioning in the partner cities for a water-sensitive transformation, starting in March 2023, will be concretized through specific interventions at the district/neighborhood level.

4) The corresponding urban development vision is to be based on the transformation towards productive and livable cities, which is increasingly desired by the inhabitants of small and medium-sized cities in Southeast Asia.

17 March 2023

Baseline Studies for Partner Cities of PolyUrbanWaters published

After two years of intensive cooperation between the partner cities Kratié/Cambodia, Sam Neua, Laos and Sariharjo, Sleman/Indonesia and the PolyUrbanWaters-Network the baseline studies could now be published.

These assessments show the water challenges of the cities in the context of an increasingly dynamic urban development, comprehensive land use changes in the water catchment and climate change.

The assessments, which also reflect the expected urban development trends in detail, are the basis for strategic recommendations for municipal and provincial administrations. The Houaphan provincial administration has already designated the study for Sam Neua as a strategic document for urban development.

The base-line studies can be downloaded from the "resources" section of this website.

28 November 2022

National Stakeholder Workshop in Laos to present the key findings of the draft of the baseline study and initial strategy development

Last week, from the 22-25th of November, the PUW Team organized meetings in Vientiane, Laos PDR with the Project Implementation Committee (PIC) comprising national government representatives from:

  • the Ministry of Public Works and Transport - Department of Housing and Urban Planning as well as the Department of Planning and Finance;
  • Public Works and Transport Institute;
  • Project Coordination Unit of the Greater Mekong Subregion Project.

And local level representatives from:

  • the Department of Public Works and Transport;
  • Development and Administration Authority;
  • Department of Natural Resources and Environment, and Provincial and District Offices of Houphanh and Sam Neua;
  • Sam Neua Water Supply State Enterprise.

The aim of these meetings was to present and discuss key findings of the draft of the baseline study and initial strategy development. Additionally, an example activity on cross-sectoral urban planning was carried out with partners, focused on urban planning and urban water management needs within an urban extension area of Sam Neua Town. The activity gave participants an opportunity to localise key findings of the baseline study and initial strategy development phase and gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the different requirements and perspectives of the respective participants/sectors concerning the focus area.

A key outcome was listing core capacity development needs for stakeholders and tailored capacity building support possible. The project´s upcoming vision-building and capacity-development activities will be based on the key findings generated during the discussion sessions.

Overall, it was an engaging and productive week, where interdisciplinary project partners of the Project Implementation Committee became more aware of each other's current and future challenges, opportunities and optional strategies to confidently face the expected consequences of urban growth and climate change in order to achive their vision for a Green, Clean and Beautiful Town.

 Selected recommendations from the process until November 2022 are:
1) Given the topopgraphic condition of a narrow valley and rapid change in land use patterns throughout the water catchment area, increasing soil sealing and loss of green areas (such as conversion of rice paddies to building land and forest cover) is creating increasing vulnerability to flooding. This should be countered by the development of hybrid gray-green infrastructure (water retention basins, infilitration areas, or other nature-based solutions).
2) To date, the expansion of the urban area has followed the development of the road network in a largely unplanned manner. That is, water-sensitive infrastructure development (drainage systems, water supply, etc.) follows increasingly intensive construction activity. Participatory urban planning should proactively ensure effective infrastructural development and especially the development of public green spaces (community facilities, sports fields, etc.).
3) The increasing pollution of water bodies is largely due to the absence of any wastewater management system. The mandatory implementation of septic tanks and DEWATS systems especially in new buildings and the successive upgrading of the existing building stock. The establishment of an effective sludge management system will be highly dependent on consistent monitoring and law enforcment by the local government.
The complete base-line study will be available soon in the download section.

24 November 2022

Project Update 16 Integrated Stormewater Management - learnings from Hamburg/Germany

Linnea Foelster Hamburg Wasser/German Water Partnership shares with a national experts experiences of integrated stormwater management in context of water wise city development of Hamburg.
The regional ministry is planing an urban development to modernise a big area and to construct houses for > 5000 people.
After receiving the first vision of the urban development, the water operator HAMBURG WASSER investigates about the water, waste water and rain- and stormwater situation and needs.
1) After a comprehensive analysis of stormwater hot pots,
2) flow regimes of strom water is detected.
3) Multifunctional areas are identified were storm water can be drained and in the same the key prurpose such as sport activities can ensured.
4) Effective, attractive architectural and technical design contributes sgnificantly to the livability of the city.

15 October 2022

Project Update 15 Conceptual and analytical approach for the polycentric management of urban waters sucessfully tested.

The comprehensive baseline assessments for the partner cities Sam Neua/Laos and Sarihajo/Sleman/Indonesia are now available (both documents will be accessible in the download area from January 2023). These studies and the strategy recommendations elaborated in them are based on analyses of the socio-economic and natural change dynamics to which the cities are exposed and the resulting urban planning and water management challenges.Here, the DPSIR framework has proven to be a robust tool: Driving forces such as demographic, economic, social and climate change
induced causes of urban transformation may translate into pressure on
water and natural resources, such as higher water demand. The state of water
resources is captured by information on water quantity and quality and overuse
of natural water resources that may have an impact on public health and
ecosystems. Improved land use planning and infrastructure development may
be appropriate responses to mitigate pressures and to achieve development
targets.For a detailed analysis, the PolyUrbanWaters project has developed a polygon of water-sensitive urban development. “Water” is elaborated with this tool as a cross-cutting issue of sustainable urban development. In this way, the dimensions of urban planning and water management challenges in Sam Neua and Sarihajo/Sleman could be specified as a cross-sectoral task and solutions corresponding to local capacities could be worked out.

10 July 2022

Project update 14 – Planning in Sam Neua

The PolyUrbanWaters research team with members from Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Germany conducted extensive research in Sam Neua with the national urban planning authority Department of Housing and Urban Planning (DHUP) and Public Works and Transport Institute (PWRTI ) and the local/provincial/district government from 18 to 26 June 2022. Among other things, an analysis of the flood vulnerability of the city itself and the urban catchment area was carried out. In this context, research results obtained in the context of the base-line study “Water in the city of Sam Neua” could be verified and significantly deepened: 1) The topographical profile of the city area, which is located in valleys with steep slopes, and its peri-urban areas, which are still strongly characterised by agriculture, is per se exposed to a strong runoff regime during heavy rainfall events.
2) The dynamic conversion of forest areas in the watershed into farmland significantly reduces the water absorption capacity of the soils and contributes to a further increased run-off of rainwater.3) Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, heavy construction activity in the valleys is contributing to rapid conversion of agricultural land, i.e. mainly paddy fields into settlement land. The resulting land sealing is associated with a considerable loss of infiltration areas.
4) With the higher frequency and intensity of heavy rainfall events to be expected in the course of climate change, there is a risk that the various influencing variables of the runoff regime will reinforce each other. At the same time, buildings are increasingly being built in existing and future potential flood risk zones.
5) Local stakeholders have discussed these trends in participatory workshops. Methods such as risk mapping were used. In this context, the influencing factors and the consequences of the flood disaster in the Ahr valley/Germany in July 2022 were discussed. In this valley, too, a major flood disaster seemed unlikely for decades. Land use changes, development of residential areas in risk zones and climate change induced extreme rainfalls resulted in 134 fatilities and damages worth billions of Euros.
6) The results of the research activities and dialogue events are now being evaluated with a view to developing more accurate vulnerability diagnoses and forecasts. Recommendations for action for urban and provincial government will be derived from this. The results will then be presented to government bodies at local and national level in October 2022.

22 June  2022

Understanding water infrastructures. Participatory workshops in Sam Neua, Laos

The PolyUrbanWaters team continues its work in the field with participatory workshops, this time in Sam Neua, Laos, to discuss the current status of water in the city (based on the findings of the baseline study report). Stakeholders from various ministries and departments, as well as village leaders, met and began collectively mapping their neighbourhoods using participatory methods and tools.
Participants actively discussed the current challenges in their city, the likely consequences of urban change, and the impact on the city’s future development. Excavations, landslides, the conversion of rice fields for construction area, and finally flooding were some of the identified priority threats. Among others, the rapid development of new investments, new public infrastructures, and unguided proliferation of new housing were identified as the main drivers of urban transformation of the region. Collective mapping not only improved the data collection process, but also strengthened the capacity of participants through an inclusive, co-productive, and multi-sectoral approach to planning.

9 June 2022

Water in the neighbourhood. Building water-sensitive visions.
Participatory workshops in Sleman, Indonesia

On the 9th of June, the PUW team organised participatory workshops in Sariharjo Village, Sleman, Indonesia to discuss the current state of water in the city – based on the results from the Baseline Study Report - and to develop the first water-sensitive visions for the village. The leaders from 16 Sub-village administrations and the representatives from different local organizations, including women’s organisations, came together to engage in developing future visions for their neighbourhoods through participatory methods.

In the first workshop session, some exercises on the scenario „business as usual” were organised. The participants engaged in discussion and mapping of the current and future challenges for Selman Regency’s urban transformation and their impacts on the further development of the city. Population growth dynamics and a growing number of uncontrolled built-up areas were identified as major drivers of the region’s urban transformation.

In the second session, the participants shared their knowledge about concepts for green and blue infrastructure, water-sensitive cities and nature-based solutions (NBS). This introduction to NBS was followed by a mapping exercise with each working group identifying and locating existing and envisioned NBS. The workshop finished with a fruitful discussion on the concept of a water-sensitive city and its potential for Sariharjo Village and Sleman Regency.


2  June 2022

Project Update 13 - Effective water services by water operators as key for SDG-oriented urban transformation.

The analyses carried out as part of the PolyUrbanWater’s baseline assessment in the urban area of Sahirajo in Sleman/Indonesia show the special challenges associated with a water supply system that is still predominantly rural in nature but is now becoming more urban. A large proportion of households in this city are supplied with raw water from private wells through largely uncontrolled extraction. This situation is not unique to Sahirajo but is characteristic of Indonesia on the whole where the low level of water supply from the water utility is a fundamental challenge to urban development and sustainable water management. With urbanization now gaining momentum in Sahirjao, there is an associated increased water consumption of new apartment blocks, hotels and commercial facilities, and this is exacerbating the risk of increasing groundwater extraction having a detrimental impact on the renewable nature of groundwater resources leading to a drop in overall groundwater levels. This trend is already being observed in the vicinity of new buildings and will need to be counteracted primarily by improved water supply through the responsible local authority. However, this authority faces a complexity of institutional challenges, particularly with regard to the financial sustainability of an efficient water supply for which regulatory enforcement and nudges must persuade water consumers to connect to a tariff-based central water supply system.


25  May 2022

Project Update 12 - The significance of paddy fields for climate change adaptation

The baseline analyses currently being carried out in PolyUrbanWaters’ partner cities indicate that issues and challenges for sustainable green infrastructure development revolve not only around planning and technical questions, but above all around their green infrastructures’ sustainable management. As a result, these questions about the maintenance and further development of existing green infrastructures are increasing in importance. In this respect, the landscape of the partner cities is like many cities in South-East Asia: strongly characterized by large areas of wet rice cultivation. These green spaces are of essential importance for the hydrology of the peri-urban zones and the core city. In addition, they have an important function in maintaining a pleasant local climate. Especially during heavy rainfall, the paddy fields act as storage, buffering or delaying the release of stored water. Furthermore, as the example of the PolyUrbanWaters partner city Sam Neua/Laos shows, the loss of paddy fields is increasingly dynamic in the course of urbanisation. Without protective or compensatory measures, such as water retention basins or comprehensive drainage systems, the city’s flood vulnerability will increase due to the accelerated runoff regime, especially during heavy rainfall events. The city administration will need to counteract this with integrated stormwater management that considers the value of existing paddy fields. Ultimately, the question will be what significance paddy cultivation will have in a changed peri-urban landscape. Taking this into account, productivity gains through sustainable cultivation should enable increased value creation and thus also an increase in the economic importance of this infrastructure. Moreover, improved cultivation methods should lead to a reduction in the over-fertilization of the paddy-fields and in the resulting pollution of surface and groundwater.


15  May 2022

Project Update 11 - Financing and maintaining green infrastructure in new urban development areas

PolyUrbanWaters reviews the extent to which green infrastructure developments can be made sustainable in its partner cities. In the course of base-line assessments, the project tries to find out to what extent the objectives and guidelines increasingly formulated by regional development banks and national governments can be implemented in the socio-economic context of secondary and tertiary cities. In the partner city of Kratie/Cambodia, for example, the hypothesis was tested that, due to the large amount of open space available, new development areas are particularly suitable for comprehensive green infrastructure development. On-site surveys have shown, however, that the development logic of new housing estates in structurally weak areas initially leaves little room for infrastructure development. Land is acquired and parceled out and then sold to interested parties, who only gradually build on the land. Infrastructure development (water supply, drainage, etc.) then often follows with a time lag, when funding is made available by the state or the buyers/investors. Green infrastructures usually require intensive maintenance and care. This is certainly often difficult to ensure with such a time-delayed infrastructure development. Here, development models for green infrastructures are required that take these basic realities into account right from the start.


15  April 2022

Project Update 10 - Valorisation of peri-urban wetlands as strategic components of resilience to climate change

In March 2022, Polyurbanwaters’ international teams were able to conduct on-site analyses in Kratie/Cambodia again for the first time. Among other things, they examined the extent to which the city’s green infrastructure can be assessed in terms of its flood vulnerability and climate resilience. Situated on the Mekong River, an extensive wetland still extends at the back of the city today. This area has a significant influence on the water hydrology for the urban catchment area in general, is essential for the urban climate, holds a rich habitat and has an important function for agriculture and fishery, i.e. for the livelihoods of the communities. The wetland is coming under pressure, especially due to increasing construction activity, which will have significant implications for the economic, social and ecological development of the city and its urban catchment area. As the research of the PolyUrbanWaters team shows, the sustainable management of wetlands should be considered as a strategic element of urban development. A gradual disappearance of this area would not only mean a significant loss in terms of the tourism development envisaged by the city, but also a substantial loss of quality of life and livability. Warning examples can be observed on the drive from Phnom Penh to Kratie, where forestation has given way to dry savannah over the last forty years.


22  March 2022

Project update 9: Water governance and sustainable infrastructure development

Localising the SDGs through sustainable infrastructure development is a key focus of PolyUrbanWaters.  Since 2020, PolyUrbanWaters has conducted detailed analyses of governance structures in Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam that are essential for urban water management. Increasingly, it is common knowledge among decision-makers at the level of national and local governments and international development agencies that simply providing funding and implementing hardware is insufficient for the sustainable management of infrastructures and that building local capacity is essential for their sustainable management. In this context, public sector budgeting increasingly provides for the financing of so-called capacity development measures in addition to the financing of hardware (drainage systems, water treatment plants, etc.). However, PolyUrbanWaters’ research shows that capacity development alone (e.g. training of staff and local actors, technical equipment of local government) is only one essential element among others for sustainable infrastructure development. In this context, research by AIT in Thailand has shown that the high degree of fragmentation of responsibilities for urban water management at the national government level leads to the paralysis of decision-making processes down to the local level. Studies of the project in Cambodia have shown that investment decisions made at the national government level are only very partially aligned with the mandates of municipal governments and thus ultimately insufficiently integrated into local structures. Due to the unclear financing of the operation and maintenance of the infrastructure, its sustainable operation is questioned from the very beginning. In Indonesia, as part of its decentralisation policy, the national government is trying to strengthen public structures at the level of city districts and neighbourhoods, in addition to the cities themselves, in order to better promote infrastructure development from the respective local context. However, in practice, there is still a substantial need to clarify which mandates the respective governance structures have, how these are coordinated with each other at the different hierarchical levels and how capacities (e.g. urban planning, quarteries management, water management) can be developed to fulfil these tasks. In Laos, the regulatory status of the “city”, which has so far only been clarified to a limited extent, poses a major challenge for sustainable infrastructure development. The main decisions are made at national and provincial level.  Especially in peri-urban zones, the responsibilities of local administrative units and provincial governments are not sufficiently coordinated, which makes effective water governance much more difficult. PolyUrbanWaters is in the process of analysing the interrelationships of polycentric approaches to water management (water supply, waste water management, storm water management, flood management, water safety zones, disaster management) in the context of the respective urban development dynamics and the given governance structures in the context of the current base-line studies in the partner cities of Kratie, Sam Neua and Sleman. A key objective is to support partner cities in identifying strategic projects that demonstrate effective and sustainable management of urban water resources. Here, not only the interrelationships between land use change (e.g. land sealing, loss of water buffers such as rice fields) and increased flood risk are shown. It also identifies possible solutions at the governance level to mitigate the unintended effects of urban development. This means that not only strategic options for the development or protection of green infrastructure, which are essential for urban flood management, are considered. It will also discuss with local stakeholder groups who is responsible for the sustainable management of these infrastructures (local government, communities, investors) and what the corresponding financing plans could look like.


12 February 2022

Project update 8: Successful implementation of decentralisation policy as a prerequisite for successful localisation of the SDGs.

The analyses currently being carried out in PolyUrbanWaters’ partner cities show the efforts of national and city governments to build effective city administrations. It is increasingly recognised that the provision of public funding and the implementation of hardware alone are insufficient for a comprehensive and sustainable improvement of water security and the provision of water-related municipal services.Significant progress has been made in water supply and piped water provision in the last two decades. It is recognised by the relevant stakeholders in the partner cities that infrastructure development focused primarily on “output” (e.g. “x km of drainage system”, “x households provided with waste water treament infrstructure”, “x housholds provided with piped waters”) does not necessarily translate to the same extent into a qualitative improvement of municipal services.Inadequate planning and insufficient quality monitoring of the implemented hardware leads to a situation where quite a few funded systems are not operational from the beginning. The lack of embedding in local structures, unclear responsibilities for maintenance and operation and insufficient long-term funding are major challenges for sustainable use, even if the hardware is operational at handover.These challenges are now being recognised by national and local governments. Increasingly, public budgeting requires hardware development to go hand in hand with the establishment of effective local structures or effective municipal administrations as part of capacity building measures. This can be seen as an important step towards strengthening local structures at the local level - be it at the level of the city as a whole, the city districts or the neighbourhoods - for successful decentralisation policies.However, government structures still face considerable challenges in translating the goals and processual procedures defined in strategic documents such as papers on regional development plans, water policy, climate change adaptation policy into local governance practice. Effective municipal administrations require clear and transparent decision-making structures, essential decision-making competencies, sufficient funding and differentiated technical expertise at the planning, implementation and monitoring levels. This requires communication capacities that can ensure communication between the different institutions and hierarchical levels of urban administration as well as actors from the community level, civil society and the private sector.

PolyUrbanWatern’s research confirms, capacity development must go hand in hand with a practical clarification of the mandates of public institutions.

What is the effective and efficient division of responsibilities in urban planning and its implementation between national government, provincial government and municipal government? What are the mandates and responsibilities between governance structures between city government and citiy district government? What roles do governance structures at neighbourhood and community level have, or are they in practice clearly embedded in urban governance structures? When it comes to the realisation of integrated approaches, what is the division of tasks at the horizontal and vertical levels between the different municipal institutions?At first glance, these questions and tasks seem rather complex. However, they are ultimately indispensable for the municipalities of secondary and tertiary cities to be able to ensure their tasks with regard to water security and the provision of water-related urban services. An essential prerequisite for this transformation and capacity development process is qualifi