Floriade Dialogue #3

Sponge city development


With over 70 participants representing 15 countries, the Floriade Dialogue’s third edition in Beijing was a successful continuation. This edition covered Sponge City case examples from Shanghai, Hebei Province, Zhuhai, Shenyang, and Shanghai, discussing the flood absorbing capacity of these fast growing cities.


Water management has become a major integrated focus of intensive urbanization. Flash floods have crippled cities with increasing climate unpredictability and unrivaled financial consequences. Urban floods cost billions of dollars per year in damages, with potent degradation on social, environmental, and economic stability.

Climate resilient strategies for water sensitive cities

An unprecedented opportunity exists now to reconsider cities as circular urban landscapes, with water as the central element. Cities should be approached as catchment systems with the absorbance capacity provided by urban wetlands — sometimes accredited by Ramsar Convention — and greenspaces that provide environmental and agricultural benefits while storing valuable superfluous freshwater for groundwater recharge.

Urbanization will be characterized by the implementation of blue-green measures that utilize the power of natural infrastructure to solve drainage and heat island problems; creating ‘Sponge Cities’. The expectations and objectives for this approach are high. China alone aims to have 80% of its urban areas able to absorb and re-use at least 70% of rainwater by 2020.

Dialogue and Discussion:
  • Scaling up investments in water supply security and integrated urban water cycle
  • Sustainable urban drainage and groundwater systems
  • Urban design to minimize environmental degradation
  • Sponge City aesthetics and recreational appeal

Because of land reclamation projects in the past, many wetland areas disappeared entirely. This has an impact on (ground)water levels in many areas of the world. In many cases, the areas with the highest amount of total food production and agricultural farmland also cope with the highest amount of water shortages. Meanwhile, flooding of inner city and residential areas occur often. These floods mainly happen during typhoon seasons with heavy rainfall.

An important conclusion: groundwater recharge is needed and has direct impact on food security of many different countries worldwide. A new focus on resiliency and urban development is underway with integrated urban design and servicing multiple solutions like: recreational space, preservation of industrial heritage, nature-built wetlands, green parks, and green roofs with new ecological connections, such as Chongming Island Dongtan Nature Reserve in Shanghai — a RAMSAR site.

Important conclusion of this Floriade Dialogue Edition: We should work together with people in the city to design parks, seafronts, beaches, and/or infrastructure to adapt to typhoon seasons and heavy rainfall. Some great examples were presented in which neighbourhood committees worked together in 3 day workshops, looking for reference projects, making sketches of their own residential areas, and working on their own water management and water protection plans in their neigbourhood.


  • Download the presentation | Benefts of Urban Wetlands – Scaling up the Sponge City approach | Speaker Harry den Hartog, urban planner and researcher at the Tongji University in Shanghai
  • Download the presentation | Groundwater Management in Hebei | Speaker Director of the Water Resources Department, Hebei Province Institute of Water Science, China
  • Download the presentation | Implementation Climate Resilience in Zhuhai | Spreker Xiaocun Ruan, Sustainable Urban Planning expert at the EC-LINK project
  • Download the report| Report and conclusions Floriade Dialogues #3