Expert Voices: Arnoud Molenaar, Manager, Rotterdam Climate Proof, City of Rotterdam

In the last few months, Rotterdam has met a series of milestones to make the city more climate resilient. Most recently, the city, together with all partner cities in the C40 Connecting Delta City (CDC) Network, is proud to have published the third volume of the C40 Connecting Delta Cities (CDC) book, ‘Resilient Cities and Adaptation Strategies’. Here, thirteen front-runners from all five continents tell their stories and provide a compelling example of international collaboration within the C40 CDC network. In October 2013, Rotterdam launched its Rotterdam Climate Change Adaptation Strategy the result of five years of pioneering efforts in collaboration with numerous partners. In early December, we officially opened the world’s first full-scale water square: the Benthemplein. This Rotterdam innovation provides an answer to flooding and drainage issues in urban areas around the world, whilst improving the quality of life for local residents at all times.

C40 Connecting Delta Cities Network, volume III: ‘Resilient cities and adaptation strategies’

It has been wonderful to join forces across the C40 network and tell the stories of thirteen dedicated delta cities. With two new member cities (Copenhagen and Melbourne) and three candidate-members (Venice, Changwon and Rio de Janeiro) to the C40 CDC network, readers are introduced to the very different ways delta cities around the world are adapting to the impacts of climate change. The book is very informative and hopefully will serve as an inspiration for other C40 sub-networks. Read more about the book or,  even better, read the book yourself.

Rotterdam Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (RCCAS)

The Rotterdam adaptation strategy is the result of a five-year effort to develop knowledge and know-how, and identify new perspectives and opportunities with stakeholders. It was made possible by the city’s extensive collaboration with businesses, scientific institutions, the Dutch Knowledge for Climate network and every level of  government..

A specific source of pride for Rotterdam is the chapter dividing the city into ‘urban perspectives’, (landscape types with specific qualities) depicting each perspective’s set of most valuable measures, both in terms of water management and climate change, as well as social merits. The strategies outlined in this chapter are clear, practical and, better yet, represent approaches that other cities can easily adopt.  

Water safety is often associated with large operations such as dikes and storm surge barriers that are far away from the actual city. The RCCAS shifts the focus to the city neighborhoods, increasing the city’s sponge function, allowing each part of the city to deal with water successfully. Inspired by our collaboration with Ho Chi Minh City, Rotterdam has now selected a pilot district for concrete measures: Zomerhofkwartier (ZoHo). Stay tuned for further updates as we progress.

Benthemplein water square

One example of this trend of shifting water safety measures to the city centre is Rotterdam’s new Benthemplein water square. Following special preparations with residents and entrepreneurs, the city began Benthemplein’s construction in 2012. It is the world’s largest full-scale water square, one of a kind, for now. The square retains rainwater as it falls on the square itself and serves as a repository for rainwater hitting the surrounding buildings’ roofs. The water is kept from the sewage system. Instead, part of the water infiltrates into the soil, part flows to a nearby city canal. This is good for both the Rotterdam groundwater and surface water quality. It eases stress on the sewage system, preventing huge additional investments in the system. The best part is, that during clement weather the square offers room for relaxation and sports, including a basketball court and skateboarding facilities.

A few hundred people attended the opening ceremony in December 2013, among which were many local residents, students and entrepreneurs who participated in the preparations by sharing ideas and opinions from the start of the project – a key factor of its success. They were impressed with the result, as were the local skaters and ‘bootcampers’ -- two constituencies who started using the square even during construction. Mission accomplished.

To read more about the C40 Connecting Delta Cities network and related blog posts, click here.