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Integrating surface water management in urban and regional planning: Case study of Wuhan in China

Integrating surface water management in urban and regional planning: Case study of Wuhan in China
Ningrui Du


International Institute for Geo-information Science & Earth Observation, 7500 AE Enschede, THE NETHERLANDS
Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University, 3512 JE Utrecht, THE NETHERLANDS.


The main goal of the study is to examine and develop a spatial planning methodology that would enhance the sustainability of urban development by integrating the surface water system in the urban and regional planning process. Theoretically, this study proposes that proactive-integrated policy and approaches need to be promoted in order to gain enough capacity to organize and preserve the space for water systems along with spatial requirement of urban development. It is important to have a paradigm shift both in water management and spatial planning and design. In the Chinese context, urban planning and water management are both undergoing a complex transformation process in concepts, contents, working approaches and institutionalization. The case study in Wuhan shows that since the 1990s, urban development has had a significant impact on the surface water bodies and their riparian zones either by size reduction or complete reclamation. The process of water-to-land conversions for urban construction has been intensified under the pressure of the geographically outwardly expanding pattern and hierarchical-concentric urban form. The impacts on the surface water systems from urban activities have not been adequately reflected in the urban planning system. The time-lag between the two policy processes for water and urban development has made it difficult for urban planners and water managers to adopt effective measures to address the water-related problems in an integrated and coordinated manner. The case studies from the Netherlands show the experience of Dutch spatial planning and water management offers many valuable lessons not only in planning content, but also planning process for Wuhan or other cities in China. Some concepts in the national spatial water policy, i.e. ‘space for nature’, ‘space for water’, ‘green-blue network’, ‘climate-proof city’ may be a good practice for Chinese urban planners and water managers. The practical experiences also show that integrating water issues in spatial planning could bring opportunities for making an attractive city with good quality of space. The trend of urban development in Wuhan shows that the size of the urban expansion will be larger in the coming decades and the pressure on water systems from rapid economic development will remain high. It is urgent to have integrated planning options from the strategic level to the local action level. At the strategic level, proactive land use planning for urban development should consider water issues at the initial stage before negative impacts occur. Clear lines of responsibility between different departments should be demarcated so as to harmonize the fragmented and dispersed local efforts. Public participation is encouraged during the process. At the local level, an on-site water-sensitive design approach should be advocated. The measures of zoning to control construction and land use in and around the surface water bodies can be used but should reflect the consensus of views from various agents such as urban planners, water managers and the public at large. Useful information and knowledge is crucial during this process and therefore spatial data infrastructure is urgent to be promoted.