The governance of flood risk planning in Guangzhou, China: using the past to study the present


  • Meng Meng TU Delft
  • Marcin Dubrwoski TU Delft



Based on the framework of governance adapted from the work of Patsy Healey and drawing on the case of Guangzhou, which is regarded as the most vulnerable city in China to flooding and waterlogging, this paper adds to the literature on urban climate change adaptation. It does so by shedding light on the history of the city’s struggle against the water and examining why the current spatial planning and flood risk management fails to address the growing flood risk linked with climate change. The paper distinguishes two major transformations of the approach to dealing with water in Guangzhou. Historically, the city was built under the influence of Fengshui Philosophy and co-existed with water. Then, the approach shifted towards engineering-based solutions to containing flood risk under the stress of rapid city expansion. After that, in the context of a changing climate, to minimise flood risk the local government is transferring its priorities from the planning of hard engineering solutions (back) towards soft nature-based solutions. However, the deeply rooted top-down planning culture and clear-cut functional separation between different departments of the local government critically affect the implementation of the policy and cooperation between the different agencies to address the present and increasingly urgent cross-cutting climate change adaptation agenda.


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