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FEATURE STORY February 3, 2020

23rd Disaster Risk Management Seminar "Learning from Japan’s Experience in Integrated Urban Flood Risk Management: Launch of A Series of Knowledge Notes"

February 3, 2020
Tokyo, Japan

Globally, floods are the most frequent and damaging among natural hazards. Between 1998-2017, floods led to economic damages exceeding US$600 billion, affected more than 2 billion people, and resulted in around 142,000 fatalities. Compounded by rapid urbanization and climate change, these losses will likely increase, especially in developing countries where population numbers are rapidly growing in flood-prone areas. This poses a serious development challenge to many countries and their efforts to reduce poverty and increase shared prosperity. To help manage the impact of floods on people and economies, the World Bank provides technical assistance, advisory services, and financial support to a range of countries and cities around the world.

Cities in Japan are also at high risk of flooding due to its climate, exposure to hazards, geography, urban and economic development context, etc. Many major cities, including Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya are in flood-prone low-lying areas.  Urban areas are also vulnerable to localized heavy rains as asphalt-paved roads and dense concrete buildings decrease the amount of storm water that infiltrates the ground.  In 2019, severe typhoons Hagibis and Faxai in Japan together accounted for the years’ largest overall losses ($26 billion), and marked Japan’s second consecutive year of record tropical cyclone losses, according to Munich Re.  Facing these acute flood risk, Japanese cities, through monitoring and evaluation of flood risk reduction investments, and drawing lessons from the catastrophic events, continues to improve and innovate to enhance their urban flood resilience through a comprehensive approach.  The Integrated Urban Flood Risk Management (IUFRM) approach taken in Japan focuses on all sources of flooding, and balances structural and non-structural management measures according to stakeholder goals and environmental contexts.  These experiences and lessons learned from managing various types and combinations of flood risk, offers a unique knowledge opportunity for other countries seeking to adopt and advance IUFRM.  Learning from Japan’ s Experience in Integrated Urban Flood Risk Management: A Series of Knowledge Notescompiles some of the key lessons learned from Japan’s IUFRM efforts.

To launch the Series of Knowledge Note, a 23rd DRM seminar “Learning from Japan’s Experience in IUFRM” was held by the Urban Flood Community of Practice (UFCOP) and Tokyo DRM Hub.  With many of the Japanese experts who contributed to the development of the Knowledge Note in attendance, the Public Seminar offered an opportunity to understand the latest trends on urban floods risk, the unique challenges and opportunities to enhance resilience against floods in cities, highlight experiences and lessons learned from implementing integrated approach to urban flood risk management from Japan and internationally, and discuss how these experiences may be utilized in enhancing resilience in developing countries.

Mr. Masato Miyazaki, the World Bank’s Special Representative of Japan provided his welcome remarks, which was followed by opening remarks by Mr. Yasuaki Yoneyama, Director of the Japan’s Ministry of Finance, International Bureau, Multilateral Development Banks. Mr. Yoneyama highlighted that the Knowledge Notes provide a comprehensive overview of Japan’s urban flood risk management efforts. Referencing Knowledge Note 1, Mr. Yonayama stressed the importance of understanding and assessing flood risks, which is an essential first step in designing fit-for-purpose flood risk management plans and quality investments.

The opening remarks were followed by keynote speeches by: Mr. Kazushi Furumoto, Director for International Coordination of River Engineering, Water and Disaster Management Bureau, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT); Dr. Hiroaki Furumai, Professor for Research Center for Water Environment Technology, School of Engineering, The University of Tokyo; and Ms. Jolanta Kryspin-Watson, Lead Disaster Risk Management Specialist and Regional Disaster Risk Management Coordinator for East Asia and Pacific, World Bank.

In this session, MLIT shared latest challenges faced and countermeasures undertaken during the most recent typhoon Hagibis in October 2019. He presented the growing importance of integrating climate change risks within river and urban planning to enhance flood resilience, and of collaboration between the public and private sectors in the implementation of risk reduction measures.

Professor Furumai, provided an overview of the unique risks and trends related to flood risks in cities, highlighting the diverse types of flood risk cities face, as well as the need to balance urban development with structural and non-structural risk management investments.  Professor Furumai also illustrated the significant opportunity cities have in enhancing their flood resilience through engaging various stakeholders.  He showcased the IUFRM approach of Tokyo Metropolitan Government, where various departments and stakeholders collaborate under a shared flood risk management goals, while working under their respective scope of responsibilities.

In her presentation, Ms. Kryspin-Watson introduced some key lessons and good practices highlighted from the four Knowledge Note series, and how they apply to ongoing World Bank-supported operations.  By showcasing urban flood resilience efforts in Yangon (Myanmar), Manila (Philippines), Ibadan (Nigeria), Bangalore (India), Muang Xay (Lao PDR), and Tarawa (Kiribati), Ms. Kryspin-Watson emphasized that the Knowledge Notes provide practical and relevant insights to efforts made by client countries, especially on: 1) linking the analytics and execution of flood management, making prioritization process more evidence-based; 2) engaging various stakeholders considering their diverse and unique roles in the planning and implementation of flood resilience investments in cities; and 3) enhancing policy and institutional capacity alongside execution of infrastructure investments.

Mr. Furumoto (left), Professor Furumai (center), and Ms. Krispyn-Watson (right) make the keynote speeches

The panel discussion followed the keynote speeches, and included Japanese practitioners engaged in urban flood resilience building in Japan and internationally. The panelists included: Mr. Jun Hayakawa, Senior Officer, Wide-Area Water management, River Division, Kanto Regional Development Bureau, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT); Dr. Mikio Ishiwatari, Visiting Professor, The University of Tokyo and JICA advisor; and Mr. Takashi Toyoda, Chief Engineer, Water Resources and Disaster Management Department, International Division, YACHIYO ENGINEERING CO., LTD.

Drawing upon urban flood resilience experiences in Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines, the panelists exchanged ideas on challenges of urban flood risk, including recent changes and trends, as well as some of the lessons and approaches from Japan that could support developing countries’ efforts to enhance flood resilience in the respective cities.    Key themes drawn from the discussions were: (i) flood risks are increasing and diversifying rapidly especially due to climate change, and therefore, need to be integrated within urban development strategies and investments; (ii) basic data and analyses on flood risk are essential in enhancing flood risk mitigation and enabling evidence-based planning, investment design, and prioritization. However, these aspects are often in many countries, and Japanese experiences and technical collaboration could add value; (iii) urban floods is no longer an “engineering problem” but require more integrated and diversified solutions.  To do so, stakeholder engagement and collaboration in risk assessment, planning, investment design, and operation and maintenance are critical.  Lessons from Japan on new approaches of IUFRM, such as through promoting multi-purpose green infrastructure implemented in partnership between public, private, and community, could offer some knowledge and inspiration for developing countries.

(From left) Ms. Takemoto moderates the panel discussion, where Mr. Hayakawa, Mr. Ishiwatari, and Mr. Toyoda discuss challenges and opportunities in IUFRM

The Urban Floods Community of Practices and the Tokyo Disaster Risk Management Hub aim to help apply the knowledge and lessons learned, as reflected in the Knowledge Notes, and assist through knowledge sharing and dissemination, practitioners working in a variety of client countries in designing and implementing urban flood resilience measures.