Drought resilience is highlighted for World Environment Day 2024

Online Exclusive Feature / 2024

Drought resilience is highlighted for World Environment Day 2024

June 5, 2024

“We cannot turn back time, but we can grow forests, revive water sources and bring back soil” was a key message for this year’s World Environment Day on 5 June, calling for attention to the topics of land restoration, desertification and drought resilience. The underlying ‘thread’ of all three themes is the importance of water as a necessary element of life and ecosystem restoration.

A message from the United Nations (UN) Secretary General, António Guterres, lamented how all over the world “a toxic cocktail of pollution, climate chaos, and biodiversity decimation are turning healthy lands into deserts, and thriving ecosystems into dead zones.”

Inger Andersen, Executive Director of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) further wrote that land degradation and desertification are affecting over three billion people or 40 per cent of the world’s population. The harm upon freshwater ecosystems also disproportionately impact smallholder farmers and the rural poor’s abilities to grow crops and raise livestock.

As part of the campaign labelled Generation Restoration, UNEP released a practical guide for governments, businesses, civil society and individuals to restore land, halt desertification and build resilience against drought. It covered issues such as how to bolster food production, revive water cycles and sources, and bring Nature back to cities.

The following stories highlight recent efforts and ideas for ecosystem restoration in Asia and beyond.

A traditional Balinese irrigation protection scheme is introduced at the World Water Forum 2024

As part of the 10th World Water Forum that was held in Bali, Indonesia last month from 18–25 May 2024, the Directorate General of Culture of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology (Kemendikbudristek) introduced a subak protection scheme that has been made into law last year. Subak is a Balinese community-based water infrastructure system built to meet the needs of vital food crops, and it has been acknowledged as a UNESCO World Heritage object.

Subak is a sacred area, and it is upstream. It is best to reduce visits to that area. Let the water flow downstream,” said Director General of Culture of the ministry, Hilman Farid on 21 May. There are around 1,200 subak water sources in Bali, and each source is relied upon by 50 to 400 farmers who cooperatively manage the land.

The protection of upstream areas is closely tied to the issue of water crises occurring in various areas of Bali, which has worsened with rapid unchecked development that converted land into commercial facilities supporting the tourism industry—a source of livelihood that many residents depend on. As water crises escalate to extreme levels, urgent and comprehensive solutions with cross-sector participation are needed. The preservation of subak cannot be seen as a panacea but rather as one step in introducing more thorough ecosystem restoration measures.

The Ecosystems of Water: Embracing the Central Role That Water Plays in Ecology, Culture and Economy

In the past century, climate change has turned water from an object of awe and inspiration into one of immense threat to our sustainable development. Water is now frequently associated with unpredictable rainfalls, uncontrollable floods, rising sea levels, loss of groundwater and sinking cities.

This article advocates for the role of water in planning, design and architecture to be central at various scales and through various forms of integration into our economy and society, including how design and architecture follow through from our relationships with water.

Read more: https://www.futurarc.com/commentary/the-ecosystems-of-water/

Virdas: A Freshwater Harvesting System in the Arid Salt Deserts of Gujarat

In the unforgiving salt desert of Banni, the virda system is a network of strategically placed wells within shallow depressions called jheels. As jheels dry up, people dig deeper to tap subsurface water through the ingeniously evolved structure. These virdas are the only internal source of fresh water in Banni grasslands.

Read more: https://www.futurarc.com/project/virdas-banni-gujarat-india/

Hong Kong’s First District-Wide Grey Water Recycling System

While many places in the world are still using fresh water for toilet flushing, Hong Kong has been extensively adopting seawater for flushing since the 1950s, covering about 85 per cent of its population. This allows the precious fresh water to be preserved for potable purposes.

However, such a system is not easily applicable for sites at high altitude or remote from the seashore. This is the case for the Anderson Road Quarry (ARQ) site. To minimise the impact upon the environment, the Water Supplies Department (WSD) of the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China initiated the first ever district-wide grey water recycling system.

Read more: https://www.futurarc.com/project/grey-water-recycling-anderson-road-quarry/

Bioponds for Ecosystem Restoration in Flood-prone Areas of Thailand at Jin Wellbeing County

This project is designed thoughtfully with a consideration to the surrounding site—it adopts the polder system, which helps retain water before releasing it to public areas, aside from employing typical landfill methods.

Its landscape design is integrated with a Nature-based water management system to prevent flooding at the site while helping the city retain stormwater before discharging it to the public drainage network. Its detailed design contributes to the irrigation needs in line with sustainable principles.

Read more: https://www.futurarc.com/project/jin-wellbeing-county/

Hoowave Water Factory: A plan to modernise a Taiwanese town’s water network

Huwei is an inland town of around 70,000 people, located on the Beigang River. The area developed in the early 19th century around its sugar factory. Today, the factory grounds, along with a dike built to protect the town from the river’s floods, form a significant barrier between Huwei and the Beigang River. The town suffers from water pollution resulting from its urban and agricultural growth, and is unprepared for floods and droughts that will come as a result of climate change.

A design competition held by the Taiwan Ministry of Economic Affairs called for a large-scale redevelopment of the Beigang River and Anqingzhen waterways. The proposal called Hoowave Water Factory was selected as the winning design, aiming to modernise the town’s waterway network by ditching the ‘monofunctional’ approach to control and direct water.

Read more: https://www.futurarc.com/project/hoowave-water-huwei-taiwan/

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