UNNC academic shares experience on sponge city development

29 September 2020

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Dr Ka Shun Chan, Associate Professor in Environmental Sciences, recently contributed to the development of global sponge cities and shared China's experiences with Guatemalans to solve their environmental problems.  

Earlier this month, Dr Chan and his PhD student Lei Li delivered a Webinar upon the invitation of Funcagua, an NGO for water and environmental issues in Guatemala and Central America. He shared his research in urban water management and the Sponge City Programme (SCP) in Chinese cities to Ricardo Quiñónez Lemus, Mayor of the City of Guatemala, Victor Martinez, Deputy Mayor of the City of Guatemala and professors from the University of San Carlos de Guatemala.  

The concept of “Sponge City” is that a city structured and designed to absorb and capture rainwater and utilise it to reduce floods. Rainwater harvested can be repurposed for irrigation and for home use. It is a form of a sustainable drainage system in urban (district) scale.

Guatemala, located in Central America, often suffers from hurricanes and floods in the summer and is exposed to drought in the dry season over the winter. Hence, Funcagua and Guatemala officials contacted Dr Chan to obtain more information about urban water management to solve local problems. 

At the Webinar, Dr Chan and Lei introduced the development of SCPs, as well as the transformation of 30 pilot cities.  

He took Ningbo, one of the pilot cities, as an example to elaborate his research on blue-green infrastructure and sponge city construction. With successful progress, waterlogging has been alleviated and water quality has improved significantly. As urban greenways have increased significantly, Ningbo has become a more ecological and livable city.  

At the webinar, Dr Chan also had in-depth discussions with the city of Guatemala mayors, scholars and representatives of Funcagua about the broader situation in Guatemala.

According to Dr Chan, it is crucial to adapt strategies to local conditions since every city will encounter different challenges when developing sponge cities. He believes that China's experience will provide a valuable lesson for Guatemala City to improve the ecological environment and social development.