Urban resilience is a common benefit for all citizens

Pere Malgrat

Pere Malgrat

Urban Drainage & Resilience Strategic Consultant and ECCA 2019 SPAC member

01 March, 2019

Pere Malgrat (MSc in Civil Engineering) has over 30 years of experience in managing urban sewer networks, involving: the planning, project, works, exploitation and maintenance of urban drainage systems, including new smart technologies.

Defined as the ability to withstand and to recover quickly from threats, tragedies or severe stress, the application of resilience to cities becomes key to responding and adapting to different types of potential disasters, whether of natural or human origin, and maintaining a reasonable level of functionality. In the current context, with climate change adding more pressures and uncertainties, knowledge on urban resilience is crucial for the development of cities. 

What threats do cities face nowadays?

Today, cities are faced with several problems. While they are becoming smarter and more intelligent, they are still very vulnerable and fragile. The negative impacts of climate change, population increase, the ageing of assets and urban infrastructure, natural disasters such as floods or droughts, and even possible technological failures are examples of these threats.

What is meant by urban resilience?

Urban resilience refers to the ability of cities to respond and adapt to different types of disasters while maintaining a reasonable level of functionality. These disasters can be of natural origin, such as earthquakes or floods, or of human origin, such as terrorist attacks or wars. While typical risk reduction measures tend to focus on a specific hazard, resilience adopts a multi-hazard approach, taking all types of threat into account.

Why are urban services and water-related infrastructures essential to build truly resilient cities?

Water is a basic service that not only the population depends on, but also many services such as hospitals, firefighters, cleaning services, etc. In addition, it should be noted that the deficit or poor management of infrastructure – both in drinking water and in urban drainage and water treatment – can cause water shortages, structural collapse, leaks, floods, and environmental problems which affect other services and infrastructure.

What planning and operational strategies in urban water should cities carry out to be considered resilient?

Without any doubt, cities must have a Resilience Action Plan. This applies an integral analysis of the operation of urban services, the monitoring of service and infrastructure networks, simulation models, action protocols and alert systems to know the state of the city in real-time, and guarantee coordination that allows efficient management of the critical events that a city may suffer.

With a Resilience Action Plan, administration and public services operators can optimise spending on corrective actions, increase coordination with emergency services and action protocols, know in real-time the situation of the city and have a greater control over impacts thanks to the creation of predictive models, among other benefits. In addition, it has a direct benefit to citizens as resilience increases their security by guaranteeing the correct functioning of urban systems, and also applies savings in public resources as the result of more efficient management.

You are a member of the Project Advisory Board of RESCCUE, one of the three projects that co-organise ECCA 2019. What does it consist of?

On the one hand, the RESCCUE project (RESilience to cope with Climate Change in Urban arEas – a multisectoral approach focusing on water, www.resccue.eu) focuses on deep analysis of the cascading effects between urban services and critical infrastructure through models and tools that integrate its operation. On the other hand, it analyses the global functioning of the city from a holistic approach.

The main goal of the RESCCUE project, whose models and tools are being validated in three European cities – Barcelona, Lisbon and Bristol – is to help cities around the world to be more resistant to physical, social and economic challenges. Thanks to the analysis, we can generate models and tools to apply this objective to different types of cities, with differing pressures from climate change. RESCCUE will also help cities prepare their Resilience Action Plan.