Around 100 people attended the special event “Adapting governance and infrastructure for water resilience” that IDOS organised on 23 May in cooperation with the city of Bonn, the Bonn Water Network and the Global Water Operators’ Partnership Alliance (UN-Habitat/ GWOPA) on the occasion of the 5th GWOPA congress in Bonn.
In her welcoming words, Dr Ines Dombrowsky, head of the IDOS programme Environmental Governance and Transformation to Sustainability, highlighted the role of the city of Bonn as an international sustainability hub and the excellent cooperation with a large variety of institutions from science, policy and civil society. UN Habitat’s Deputy Executive Director Dr Michal Mlynár opened the event with a talk on the tremendous challenges of extreme weather events for water and other urban infrastructure and the appeal to put water at the center of decision-making in urban contexts.
The speakers of the following panel discussion brought in their expertise on best practices to face water-related challenges such as floods: Ignatius Jean, Executive Director of the Caribbean Water and Sewerage Association (CAWASA) emphasized how solidarity between citizens but also water operators’ mutual support help to deal with the severe destruction of infrastructure by hurricanes. Georg Johann, Managing Director of the Flood Competence Center/ HochwasserKompetenzCentrum e.V. showcased how better cooperation between science, policy and citizens can help to improve awareness-raising and early warning in Germany. André Dzikus, Chief of Urban Basic Services Section at UN-Habitat, shed light on how indigenous people’s knowledge of water protection and flood prevention can help avoid and mitigate the effects of extreme weather events. Professor Mariele Evers, acting director of the department of geography at Bonn University, explained how water infrastructure and governance can become more flexible to adapt to future challenges.
In her summary of the session, Dr Annabelle Houdret, senior researcher at IDOS and speaker of the Bonn Water Network, pointed out that Germany and other European countries can learn from experiences of countries that have been exposed to floods and other extreme weather events since long, and that mutual support between countries can help to boost resilience. Melanie Grabowy, Deputy Mayor of the city of Bonn, held the closing remarks and ensured the city’s support to further activities on resilience including in Bonn’s upcoming ‘Resilience Hub’ as part of the Making Cities Resilient 2030 initiative launched by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR).
On 25 May, IDOS and the Bonn Water Network organised two excursions for the participants of the Congress. Two groups of about 50 people each visited the Bad Godesberg wastewater treatment plant and the flood protection measures at the Mehlemer Bach. Under the guidance of the civil engineering office and based on a study by the Bonn Water Network, it was explained how early warning and infrastructure measures prevent flood damage in the event of heavy rain. Overall, the GWOPA Congress with its approximately 300 participants from all over the world offered a great opportunity to improve the transnational exchange between research and practice and to strengthen networking on water topics in Bonn.