If there's one city in Europe with a peerless resilience record then it has to be Rotterdam. This city has taken just about every smart measure – both conventional and innovative – to make sure it isn't overwhelmed by the ever-present risk of flood. The huge port is perched on the Netherlands coast just to the northwest of the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt delta, and 90% of its urban area is below sea-level. So the city has no other choice but to take flood risk very seriously.
Perhaps its most visible line of defence against flood is the gigantic storm surge barrier located on the waterway that connects Rotterdam with the North Sea. This barrier – the Maeslantkering – is part of the network of dykes, dams, sluices and levees that criss-cross the arms of the delta to the southwest of the city. Begun in the aftermath of the 1953 flood and just recently completed, the American Society of Civil Engineers has called the "Deltaworks" the 8th wonder of the world.
But Rotterdam's flood resilience is not only evidenced by impressive engineering works. It's also about relatively small-scale measures. For example, the city provides subsidies to home-owners to turn their roofs green – to cover their roofs with a growing medium and foliage in order to reduce peak water discharge following a rain storm and help prevent flooding. In its drive to strengthen flood resilience, Rotterdam is also backing cost-saving initiatives such as underground carparks and kids' playgrounds that can double as rainwater reservoirs, temporarily holding water during heavy rain, then slowly releasing it to the drainage system.
So it came as no surprise at all when recently Rotterdam was among the first group of cities selected by the Rockefeller Foundation to receive technical support and resources to implement urban resilience programmes over the next three years. Around 400 cities across the world applied to join the Foundation's 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge designed to help 100 cities more effectively address natural and man-made disasters.
Swiss Re supports the Rockefeller Foundation initiative by providing expert guidance in the hiring of Chief Resilience Officers, city officials who will be charged with developing resilience strategies for their communities. Swiss Re's contribution also includes practical risk management insight, and access to risk assessment and risk financing tools. This includes CatNet®, a state-of-the-art risk assessment software, which will be offered to the cities free of charge.
Category: Climate/natural disasters: Floods/storms, Resilience
Location: Rotterdam, The Netherlands