The workshop was organized to, among other objectives, improve understanding of nature-based solutions (NbS) among stakeholders and demonstrate how they can be effective for achieving resilience against risks and climate change and obtaining co-benefits.
Over the past decade, policy is increasingly being reoriented to support the uptake of NbS, away from the age-old conventional engineering solutions, across the globe. NbS has been defined by the European Commission as “solutions that are inspired and supported by nature” and they are preferred for their effectiveness, multifunctionality and cost-effectiveness. Moreover, it has been established that natural capital such as urban green and blue spaces provide essential ecosystem services, including regulatory ecosystem services like risk mitigation and air purification, provisioning services like food and water, and cultural services like recreation and beautification. Thus, when natural capital is degraded, vulnerability to hazards like floods, heatwaves and droughts increase, and the quality of life in cities sees a general slump. This is why NbS are seen to have enormous potential for simultaneously mitigating risks and advancing climate-resilient development, which is plausible for a rapidly urbanizing Global South city like GKMA where developmental needs often conflict with resilience building efforts.
Position on Nature-based Solutions
In attendance at the workshop were stakeholders in the urban planning, built environment and disaster management sectors, spanning academia and research, local government, decentralized state agencies, media, youth organizations, private estate developers and landscaping companies, elected political representatives and others. The workshop participants showed grave enthusiasm about the concept of NbS after being introduced to it by Dr. Aude Zingraff-
Hamed and being shown how it can be effective for risk mitigation using experiences from the Isar Restoration in Munich. Many were even more curious to learn more about NbS upon hearing that the concept had been adopted within the framework of the National Adaptation Planning project as presented by a coordinator on the project, Mr. Isaac Danso. However, some concerns were raised over NbS, including its possible high costs and pushback from local residents since many use the riparian areas of rivers for both residential and commercial purposes.
These concerns were affirmed when the workshop participants were taken on a field trip to the River Aboabo for sight-seeing to set the context for discussion on a possible restoration of the river for mitigating flood risk. On return, a SWOT analysis was conducted, and it was established that apart from the canalization of the river, its banks had been occupied by squatter settlements constructed with wood or old roofing sheets, mostly by young people, who live in very poor sanitary conditions and are exposed to many health hazards. Most of them also have their livelihoods tied to these same riparian areas, with most working as vendors of various goods, including groceries and charcoal. Nonetheless, the workshop participants indicated that the prime location of the site and the possibility to develop recreational and economic cycles along the river presented great opportunities for a possible river restoration. Ultimately, discussions have to still take place regarding how a possible restoration of the River Aboabo or any river in GKMA can be advanced, including how funding can be arranged since present city-level policy prioritizes conventional engineering.
Having been presented with results of a survey in GKMA where residents had indicated their preference for the creation of lawns as their most preferred NbS for mitigating flood risk and tree-planting for addressing extreme heat by Kirk Enu, the workshop drew to a close with the key message that even at the household level, there is a lot citizens can do to improve their resilience. Citizens can be encouraged to reduce and possibly unseal their residential landscapes as well as plant more trees as this minimizes the risk of floods and extreme heat and may provide ecosystem services like fruits and aesthetic value. In summing the take-home messages, Prof. Divine Ahadzie of the Center for Settlement Studies in KNUST implored participants of the workshop to prioritize NbS in their activities and planning since they are more sustainable. Prof. Stephan Pauleit also expressed his hope that NbS are mainstreamed into city planning documents and reiterated the need to promote their implementation at the micro-scale at the residential and community level by locals in the interim ahead of possible interventions from city authorities or even to complement efforts by city authorities.