Building with Nature

Making the case for Nature: IHE Delft summer course teaches essential skills

29 November 2019 - Published by Eric Boessenkool
How do you justify Nature-Based Solutions for water management when classical engineered solutions based on concrete seem – at least financially – so much easier to justify? Young water management professionals from around the world invested a week of their time to learn how to make a compelling business case for building with nature to confront society’s water management and climate change challenges.

The fact that it was Earth Overshoot Day – the moment in 2019 when the annual exploitation exceeded the annual replenishment of the planet’s natural resources – gave an extra sense of urgency to participants on day one of the IHE Delft summer course ‘Greening Risk Reduction with Nature-Based Solutions’. A diverse group of 29 Masters students from 22 countries had enrolled for this year’s course, to build their skills in the financial justification and advocacy of Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) for tough water management challenges, when confronted with diverse and often conflicting stakeholder interests. Interreg BwN actively supports NBS knowledge transfer and awareness initiatives of this kind with financial and practical resources.

The size and scope of game-changing water (both flood and drought) management projects makes the funding needs very substantial, while the benefits are often long-term, diffuse, and sometimes difficult to monetise. Policymakers and funding sources are not easily convinced that an NBS can yield more effective and sustainable long-term results than a classical, grey solution. This five-day course aimed to give young professionals, mainly from developing countries but also from the ‘developed’ world, state-of-the-art perspectives and practical tools to help reconcile the interests of communities, landowners, funding sources and politics, to name just a few.

IHE Delft organises the annual summer course as part of the H2020 NAIAD project, in cooperation with NSR Interreg BwN. Course collaborator Tim Busker was struck by the enthusiasm and diversity of this year’s students: ‘Despite being a mixed group of 22 different nationalities from divergent landscapes, climates and particular local issues, what they had in common was the challenge of getting NBS taken seriously in their home countries. Their eagerness to learn from the course and from each other was palpable. This positive energy will be crucial for the implementation of NBS back in their home countries.’

Using real-world NBS case studies, including a field visit to the Urban Water Buffer project in Rotterdam, the group learnt how to identify and monetise the costs and benefits of Nature-Based Solutions for difficult water management problems. To generate discussion and stimulate out-of-the-box thinking, Dr Cor Schipper led the students in a ‘Serious Game’ that coupled Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) with Nature-Based Solutions: two competing teams battled to assess the comparative efficiency of hard, hybrid and Nature-Based Solutions for coastal defence against the achievement of SDGs.

An important take-away from the lessons, games and case studies was the ability to create a Business Canvas: a compact, one-page business case for a Nature-Based Solution to a water management problem. MSc student of Water Management and Governance at IHE, Nupur Jain put it like this: ‘The Business Canvas instantly gives a clear and holistic view of the many aspects of a NBS case, from implementation party to stakeholders, beneficiaries and providers of funding. I will definitely apply these insights in my future career as a water professional.’




 Information Summer Course

Organisers: Tim Busker, Researcher and lecturer IHE Delft Institute for Water Education Dr Nora Van Cauwenburgh (Senior Researcher and Lecturer IHE Delft, course lead NAIAD*) Paul Dourojeanni Schlotfeldt (course collaborator NAIAD*)

Guest lecturers: Dr Cor Schipper, Rijkswaterstaat Henk Nieboer, Director, EcoShape

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